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Battle for the Soul
of the Church
Premillennialism and postmillennial-ism - a

This article was written back in 1988 - warning Christians that a battle for the soul of the church was then starting to take place. The article has been reproduced here without revision - and the alarm it sounded back then and the issues it brought to light at that time are even more relevant for today - especially now that the church confronts a far more virulent secular culture. Read it carefully and think hard about it.

Political PowerScreenshot20130630at10529PM 

 

Battle for the Soul of
the Church

 

Pat Robertson

Monday, February 8, 1988 – I found my eyes glued to the television set. I was transfixed! Almost mesmerized! Excited, but troubled as well – strangely apprehensive! By early evening it had become clear to the entire American press-corps that Pat Robertson had managed to contrive a major political upset in the Iowa caucuses – scoring a second place finish behind Senator Bob Dole and forcing George Bush, the sitting Vice President, to settle for an embarrassing third.

My excitement, however, was not centered upon Robertson’s stunning success. That was not at all its focal point. Indeed, one month later, on “Super Tuesday,” the Robertson campaign ‘bombed out.” The Bush organization crushed Robertson throughout the entire South. The balloon was popped.

Still, my excitement did not dissipate. No, it was the campaign itself that was fueling my excitement – not its immediate success or failure.

Screenshot20130630at11723PMA Dress Rehearsal

The Robertson campaign was a dress rehearsal – an intriguing preview of a breath-taking drama. And Robertson’s failure did not ring down the curtain on that drama; it only served to indicate that opening night is still several years away.

The Robertson campaign was a harbinger – pointing to an onrush of apocalyptic forces – a gathering storm that is still just over the horizon. The Robertson Campaign is not an epitaph; it is a herald’s cry.

The Seedbed of a Brewing Revolution

The campaign was launched by a beleaguered, heretofore politically inactive segment of “Americana”: believing Christians – Christians who are serious and dedicated, who act upon their convictions – consciously and consistently. We are its progenitors – its fountainhead – its source; not just conservatives; but Christian conservatives. Make no mistake about it! Christians were at the bottom of the Pat Robertson campaign. Christians financed it! Christians organized it! And Christians oversaw it!

Moral Collapse

The moral collapse of America has been underway for over thirty years – less obviously, but more insidiously, even earlier – much earlier – back to the turn of the Century – back to the “Toy Affair,” the “Scopes Monkey Trial,” and the demise of Princeton Theological Seminary; and it’s that collapse that galvanized the Robertson campaign – which formed its backdrop and generated its dynamism.

The Politics of Moral Collapse

Until the late 1950s, the spreading collapse had gone largely unnoticed; but by the mid-1960s it had become alarmingly obvious; moreover, it began to quicken its pace and expand its scope. Evangelicals protested; but their protests went unheeded.

The first rumblings of a moral backlash were discernible in 1964 – during the Goldwater Campaign; however, the Goldwater Campaign was based more upon a conservative foreign policy and an equally conservative economic Screenshot20130630at15157PMagenda. It did not unabashedly stress moral issues; nor was it clearly financed, organized, and directed by Christians.

But by 1968 – under the shuddering impact of the apparently endless War in Vietnam – American politics began to undergo a profound change – an almost complete metamorphosis. The Democratic Party began to unravel – the party of Roosevelt and Truman, the party of the economic underclass and of disadvantaged minorities. It was being rent asunder. Within several years, its political agenda was radically transformed.

Tragically, it fell under the control of an altogether new cadre of leaders – a cadre which neither Roosevelt nor Truman would ever have countenanced.

The Democratic Party threw open its doors to the shrill purveyors of “the new morality.” Soon the Democratic Party was championing abortion-on-demand, the rights of homosexuals, and the overthrow of traditional family values.

Evangelicalas Abandon the
Democratic Party

Evangelicals found it ever more difficult to remain in the Democratic party. Indeed as much as many Evangelicals – myself included – may have preferred the Democratic Party’s economic and foreign policy goals, the party’s betrayal of its conservative social and moral heritage impelled most Screenshot20130630at15808PMChristians to back away from it – to either eschew politics altogether of flee to the Republican party.

The failure of Jimmy Carter – an avowed Evangelical Christian – to alter the Democratic Party’s commitment to “the new morality” sealed and finalized the exodus; and by 1980 the Democratic Party had been largely forsaken by Evangelical Christians.

The Pace of Politicization
Is Stepped Up

The years 1973 to 1980 delimit a very real watershed era – an era which marks not only the Evangelical’s abandonment of Democratic Party, but, just as significantly, marks the abrupt appearance of two new, powerful forces:

  • The growing outrage among evangelicals generated by “Roe vs. Wade;” and
  • The ever-expanding influence within Evangelical Christianity of an entirely new variety of believer – a variety, which had been swept into the Evangelical, folds during the Jesus Movement Era.

Roe v. Wade

“Roe v. Wade” is perhaps the single most galvanizing impulse underlying the politicization of Evangelical Christians. It unleashed a firestorm of pent-up-fury – and underscored the awesome depth of America’s moral collapse. Abortion-on-demand – murder! Plain and Screenshot20130630at23116PMsimple! A repulsive, grotesque Evil had been cast in the guise of a civil right. Blind selfishness had been enthroned! Millions of unborn babies were now being systematically slaughtered – and with the full approval – if not the blessing- of the United States Government.

The slaughter had to be stopped. And only the church was prepared to assume that burden. Every other American institution had been paralyzed – none stood in the gap. The church alone was left. She alone recoiled in shame and disgust! If she failed to arise, the slaughter would not only continue, but would undoubtedly intensify. And who could foresee its final consequences? What odious perversion would “the new morality” next legitimize – the blatant advocacy of existential ethics – not simple toleration, but outright encouragement? Extermination of the elderly? Eradication of the handicapped or the hopelessly ill? The sale of pornography to minors?

The New Converts from
the Jesus Movement

The crystallization of an Evangelical political consciousness was immeasurably helped along by the new converts who had flooded into the Evangelical camp during the heyday of the Jesus Movement. The influx had been Screenshot20130630at23542PMoverwhelming! But not only were the sheer numbers staggering, the nature of the new converts was astonishingly different. The Jesus Movement was unlike all past Twentieth Century revivals. It had not been restricted to the backwashes of “Americana” – lurking along its periphery – hidden away in the Appalachias or entrenched in the deep recesses of the Old Bible Belt. It had flowed onto major college campuses – and had cut through to the very heart of academia.

The arts and the media were likewise caught in its grip. The pop culture embraced it – almost completely. Jesus had become avant-garde – the gospel was fashionable!

The new converts were not cast from the old mold: more often than not they boasted college degrees, were well read, held down high-paying jobs, and were upwardly mobile. And most importantly, they were almost all socially attuned and politically sophisticated.

Some were “movers and shakers” – masterminds who had helped comprise the actual nucleus of the anti-war movement that sprang up in the wake of the 1968 Tet Offensive and the even earlier civil rights movement. The leadership itself! Indeed, during the ten years from 1967 to 1977, Evangelical Christianity was thoroughly “seeded” with experienced “political power-brokers” – trained and very competent activists whose skills were now at the beck and call of the Evangelical Christian Church.

A Third Force Is Brought to Bear

But the Robertson campaign – though primarily a product of Roe vs. Wade and the Jesus Movement activists – also reflected the influence of a third apparition – a resurgent postmillennialism. And if this genie is let completely out of the bottle – if the change it portends runs its full course – then, the turmoil we’ve witnessed thus far is just a tickler – “cause we ain’t seen nuttin yet.”

Screenshot20130630at24122PMA New Christian Weltanschauung

What’s happening? The new Christian activism is spawning a wholly new Christian mind-set – a weltanschauung - a call to arms that promises victory and purportedly vindicates the on-going political struggle in Biblical terms! It’s radically different from the traditional Twentieth Century Evangelical mind-set. And if it “catches on,” Christian activism – for the first time in over one hundred years – will have clothed itself in an eschatological justification.

That justification will inevitably alter the nature of the conflict – Christian activism will assume the form of a “holy crusade” – a crusade which is pointed not merely toward a roll-back, a simple return to the “old days,” but, rather, toward a final victory – the establishment of a Christian Republic! The Kingdom of God on the earth!

The Traditional
Christian Weltanschuauung

The traditional Twentieth Century Evangelical mind-set has been fashioned by a premillennial eschatology. For at least one hundred years, premillennialism and Evangelicalism have been almost synonymous; indeed, during the early decades of the Twentieth Century, the Schofield Reference Bible – with its numerous footnotes interpreting scriptural passages along dispensational lines – was deemed the badge of American fundamentalism. No Evangelical – whether Pentecostal or non-Pentecostal – wholly escaped the influence of premillennial eschatology. Its influence was decisive.

Premillennialism fosters a mind-set composed of several very distinct perspectives – paradigms that produce a complex network of interrelated expectations – and those expectations, in turn, are very potent formulators of Christian behavior. There are ten fundamental features that characterize a premillennial mind-set.

 

Ten Fundamental Features of a Premillennial Minset

  1. Though Christ has overcome the devil and, thereby, regained title to the earth, he has not yet stretched forth his arm to actually repossess it. Repossession necessarily entails the imposition of a cleansing judgment; and that judgment is a consuming fire – a conflagration that will destroy the very souls he died to save. Therefore, the full weight of judgment is now held in abeyance – suspended; and a dispensation of mercy has been granted. That suspension does not jeopardize God’s righteousness – because the Atonement upholds it – the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Only enough judgment is brought to bear to prevent total chaos. The establishment of the manifested kingdom awaits termination of that dispensation of mercy – and the Second Coming will mark that termination. Judgment is preached within the church; and it most certainly will constitute a dominant theme of the future kingdom; but it is not at present the prevailing message preached to the unsaved. Premillennialism, then, makes mercy and forgiveness, not justice and judgment, the heart of the Christian message.
  2. The message of forgiveness can only be preached by a forgiving people – a people willing to forgo the justice to which a claim based upon righteousness might entitle them. That claim is laid aside; and, instead, misunderstanding, and, inevitably, persecution are embraced – all for the sake of facilitating the spread of the Gospel. Premillennialism then produces a Christian who is likely to embrace suffering. He, like his Master, makes suffering a conduit of mercy.
  3. Suffering is a winepress that begets intimacy; it drives the believer to seek a solace that only Christ himself can provide. Premillennialism then shifts the focus of the Christian life from enterprise to piety and personal devotion.
  4. The mission of the church does not consist of securing social, political, economic, and cultural reformation. That reformation awaits the Second Coming – and will be effected by Christ himself. Therefore, whatever reformation the church induces is primarily by force of example, not direct political intervention. Premillennialism, then, encourages political passivity.
  5. The church is an alien body – and until Christ returns, her gaze is fixed on the heavens, not on the earth. Her people are strangers and sojourners – who like Christ himself, can find no real rest within the cosmos of earthly institution. Premillennialism, the, produces believers who are not earth-bound – who, instead, are apt to turn a deaf ear to riches, fame, and the other trappings of material security.
  6. The earth is a great sinking ship – and nothing can be done to save her; her fate is sealed. Christians, therefore should not be encouraged to man the “bilge pumps;” but, instead, they should be exhorted to help passengers locate the lifeboat and get on board – and that lifeboat is Christ himself – Christ alone. Premillennialism, then, makes conversion of the lost the only meaningful task of the church.
  7. The unsaved – in the present dispensation – are clearly the objects of God’s mercy; it is for them that Christ stripped himself of his majesty, laid aside his crown, and shed his blood. Forgiveness is offered to those whose sins are scarlet and whose crimes are heinous. Premillennialism, then, forbids casting the unsaved in the guise of “enemy” – even those who most steadfastly resist the Gospel message.
  8. The church asks only that she be left alone to preach the gospel and make converts. She seeks to form no alliance with the state; indeed, the state, while necessary, is hopelessly carnal – and an actual alliance would serve only to entangle the church – distract her, and, most significantly, compromise her spiritual nature. Premillennialism, then, fosters separation of church and state.
  9. Premillennialism is based upon a literal hermeneutic. The Old Testament should not be reduced to mere types and shadows; though a figurative interpretation is occasionally justified, it should never be presumed. Premillennialism then, prompts Christians to honor the promises God has made to the Jews; that, specifically, the Jews retain their privileged status; they are the “Chosen People;” and Israel is not a mere type of the church. Yes, the Jews have most certainly shunned their messiah and rejected his claims; nevertheless, that blindness will eventually be healed and Israel will yet be fully redeemed. Anti-Semitism is a pernicious evil.
  10. A literal hermeneutic transforms the prophetic scriptures: prophecy is made the empirical evidence which proves the authenticity of God’s Word. Israel is, of course, the primary subject of the prophetic scriptures. Premillennialism, then, presses Christians to ascribe overwhelming significance to the rebirth of national Israel. Her reestablishment is not some simple fluke of history: it fulfills God’s Word, validates the Scriptures, and points to the Second Coming. Christ’s return is very close at hand. Anti-Zionism, like anti-Semitism, is unconscionable.

Premillennialism – Clearly Not a Call to Battle

Clearly, premillennialism does not truly rationalize the evangelical political activism that the Robertson campaign so blatantly reflected; quite the contrary, it all but condemns it. At best, a premillennial Christian can justify political activism only on the basis of his Christian character: he protests not on the grounds of the church’s mission, but, instead, solely because the moral scruples of his Christian conscience cry out for him to protest.

But a protest based solely upon conscience – while noble – caries no promise of victory! No assurance of triumph! Nothing but the bloodstained banner of martyrdom! And that’s its weakness! A call to political activism is far more compelling, far more appealing, far more potent – if it’s wrapped in the cloak of destiny, if its underlying rationale “guarantees” success.

It’s not at all surprising, therefore, that the new Evangelical activists have been blunting the thrust of premillennialism for at least ten years – some for fifteen and twenty years; and many of those same activists have been urging its complete repudiation – ridiculing it; demeaning it – an eschatology of defeat! A doctrine used by the wicked to handcuff the righteous! Premillennialism is clearly not the clarion call to battle the new Christian activists want trumpeted to the troops.

Postmillennialism – The New Christian Weltanschauung

But postmillennialism is a call to battle! Its features are the polar opposite of premillennialism’s. It furnishes all that premillennialism so obviously lacks: it both vindicates political activism and declares the certainty of ultimate victory. And with each passing month, each passing year, the ever-increasing politicization of the evangelical church amplifies and sharpens the siren call of postmillennialism.

 

Ten Fundamenta Features of a Postmillennial Mindset

  1. Christ has regained title to the earth; however, the task of actual repossession has been assigned to the church; indeed, Christ will not return until the church has competed that task – and, of course, justice and judgment are the necessary handmaidens of repossession. Postmillennialism, then, radically shifts the message of the church – from mercy and forgiveness to justice and judgment.
  2. Suffering is not the inevitable lot of the believer; and persecution is not the badge of Christian fidelity. Justice is wielded by the strong and the confident – by those who are willing to make good their righteous claim to earth’s title deed – who are retaking what legitimately belongs to them. Postmillennialism, then, produces a church that is not likely to embrace suffering. A judge is not called to suffer himself – quite the contrary; he is called to impose justice – to make the unrighteous suffer.
  3. Intimacy is less important than duty – and a Christian who stresses piety and personal devotion is likely to withdraw himself from the rigors and discipline of responsible service. Postmillennialism then shifts the focus of the Christian life – from personal devotion to enterprise. “The Rule of Kingdom law” – “the Imposition of Righteous Government” – these are the only truly meaningful objects of Biblical study. Other topics are little more than intrusions:” the study of sacrifice, suffering, atonement, justification, forgiveness – all are either taken for granted or subsumed under the rubric of “Kingdom Law.”
  4. The mission of the church does indeed consist of seizing control of every important social institution – the economic component; the entire judicial system; the arts and the media; and, most especially, the educational sector - of revamping those institutions; of reshaping each into a “kingdom mold” – forcing each to conform to Biblical patterns. Postmillennialism, then, encourages political activism – because political power is the key that unlocks the door to social control.
  5. The church is not an alien body – her gaze should not be fixed on the heavens; quite the contrary: it should be riveted upon the earth. Her people are not strangers and sojourners. No indeed! Her people are the rightful lords of its riches – the stewards of its wealth. Postmillennialism then legitimates wealth; indeed, it makes prosperity the index of faith, and poverty the mark of the infidel.
  6. The earth is indeed a great sinking ship; but she is sinking only because Christians have not stormed the “wheel-house – have not driven out the perverted pilots and navigators who control her direction and who have run her up onto the rocks. Christians should indeed storm the wheel house – should indeed rush below into the hold and begin manning the bilge pumps. Little or not thought should be given to the location of the lifeboat. All hands are needed to save the ship, not to make preparations for her abandonment. Postmillennialism, then, expands the meaning of the “Great Commission”: political power becomes its primary definition, and personal conversion its secondary and subsidiary definition.
  7. Inevitably, the unsaved are wretched, miserable obstructionists – impenitent despoilers – the jailers of God’s people – despots whose grip upon social institutions must be broken. Postmillennialism, then, is very apt to cast the unsaved in the guise of “the enemy,” not the objects of God’s mercy.
  8. The church is called not only to seek an alliance with the state, but to do more – much more: to seize control of the state; to subjugate it; to use its machinery to transform society and revamp culture. Postmillennialism, then, does not foster separation of church and state; quite the contrary: it seeks to dismantle the wall of separation altogether.
  9. Postmillennialism is not based upon a literal hermeneutic; the Old Testament is primarily allegorical – and is meant only to convey types and shadows which clarify the definition of the church and the millennial kingdom. Postmillennialism then does not honor the promises God made to the Jews; those promises have been abrogated – nullified because of perfidy; repealed because of treason – the betrayal of Messiah. Anti-Semitism is a stalking phantom that often preys upon postmillennial believers – many of whom courageously resist it, but too many of whom do indeed fall victim to its twisted logic.
  10. The prophetic scriptures have all but been fulfilled – either literally before and during the 1st Century, or allegorically within the scope of church history during the last two thousand years. Only a few prophecies remain to be fulfilled – and none pertains to national Israel. Postmillennialism, then, ascribes absolutely no spiritual significance to the rebirth of national Israel. Her rebirth is either a mere fluke of history or the vile fruit of a sinister plot. Anti-Zionism, like anti-Semitism, is not often held at bay within postmillennial circles.

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