American Postmillennialism

Postmillennialism is the belief that humans, by revamping society by means of taking over the world with Christianity, will usher in the Kingdom of God.

After this Golden Age ushered in by God’s people, Christ will return (hence “Post” millennium–Christ returns after the Golden Age we establish).

This used to be a standard view of many people, and was particularly popular in America in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

Jonathan Edwards, one of America’s most famous theologians, was a postmillennialist. When he looked upon the results of the Great Awakening, he said:

‘Tis not unlikely that this work of God’s Spirit, that is so extraordinary and wonderful, is the dawning, or at least a prelude, of that glorious work of God, so often foretold in Scripture…. And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America.

The Great Awakenings felt like the start of something big. It also fed into the notion that America was the shining city on a hill, leading the world to the coming of the Lord.

The Millennium, for postmillennialists, is not necessarily 1,000 years. When Revelation 20 mentions 1,000 years 7 times, 1,000 years merely represents an age.

In order to believe Postmillennialism you have to interpret the Scriptures symbolically, or spiritually, or at least not literally. This is true whether you are dealing with the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 or the prophecies about judgment in Revelation before then, or prophecies concerning the regathering of Israel, etc.

You also have to believe in the power of humanity to reform the world and that the church will win in the end. A little too ambitiously optimistic for this guy!

It was a heady time in America when Postmillennialism was popular. The Enlightenment filled humans with grandiose ideas of their potential. America was optimistic and two Great Awakenings swept the land. Christianity was large and in charge. The Battle Hymn of the Republic is pretty much a Postmillennial rally song.

A funny thing happened on the way to the humanly ushered in Millennium: the world wide scope of evil on display in the 20th Century. Pretty hard to come out of two world wars, depression, sexual revolutions, and whatnot and conclude we were making progress toward a Golden Age of Christian Victory.

Very few people are postmillennialists today. But I imagine it will come back if we have a sustained period of peace.

In fact, the modern Social Gospel movement borrows much postmillennial thought.

It is my contention, that when the Church concentrates of societal reform, they will lose their identity and purpose. The Church does not exist for the world. The Church exists for the edification of believers so they can be edified and built up to love their neighbor.

It’s easy to blur that line, or put the cart before the horse on that one, or replace “neighbor,” which is a person, with “society,” which is an unidentifiable mass of people. Regardless of how well the Church does in their mission, I guarantee you human endeavor will not bring Christ back.

Postmillennialism is basically Humanism with a Christian veneer. I suggest not falling for it, or its modern manifestation: the Social Gospel.

What is Christ’s Active Obedience?

I came across the following quote:

“If not for Christ’s active obedience and righteousness, received through faith alone, no one would receive eternal life”

A professor at Reformed Theological Seminary said it. So, let’s analyze the theology by looking at some words.

Reformed:
Since the professor teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary, we can safely conclude we are hearing Reformed Theology from him. “Reformed” basically means “Calvinist.” I’m sure there are more ins and outs to it, but basically, that’s what it means. This will give us a foundation upon which to analyze what we’re hearing.

Tip #1 in analyzing theology: Figure out who said it. Who are they? What do they believe? Where did they say this?

Active Obedience:
This is a theological term; it is not a biblical term. Therefore, in order to define what it means, we must go to that theological camp to figure out what the term means.

Tip #2 in analyzing theology: Define your terms using people who use that term. Don’t use opposing theological camp definitions. This is a Reformed Theology term, so use Reformed Theologians to define it.

Here is a quote from Wayne Grudem in an article on Monergism.com, a place to find all things Reformed.

If Christ had only earned forgiveness of sins for us, then we would not merit heaven. Our guilt would have been removed, but we would simply be in the position of Adam and Eve before they had done anything good or bad . . .
For this reason, Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience to God in order to earn righteousness for us. He had to obey the law for his whole life on our behalf so that the positive merits of his perfect obedience would be counted for us. Sometimes this is called Christ’s “active obedience.”

The primary verse used to defend Active Obedience is Romans 5:19, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Tip #3 in analyzing theology: Look up key verses listed in support of the doctrine. Does the Bible say what they say the Bible says?

OK, now we analyze the parts.

Tip #4 in analyzing theology: Think critically about what you are being told.

The initial quote from the professor says Christ’s active obedience and righteousness is what grants us eternal life through faith.

Active obedience refers to Christ’s sinless life on this earth. Christ’s actual righteous deeds are counted to us, so we pass as righteous.

Therefore, being justified (being made righteous) seems to rest solely on Christ’s active righteous deeds done during His life.

Here’s the strange thing about this: the resurrection is completely unnecessary. Click on the link above to the Monergism.com article written by Grudem. He wrote this article to define active obedience. He does mention “passive obedience” and says that refers to Christ’s “suffering and dying for our sins,” so at least the first half of the Gospel gets mentioned! But there is no mention of Christ’s resurrection in this article about being made righteous.

Here’s why this is problematic for me, and others. Romans 5:19 is the key verse for active obedience, it’s the verse that gets the closest to sounding like it.

The disobedience is talking about Adam’s sin in eating from The Tree. It’s not referring to his entire life of active disobedience, but rather a one-time act. The same is true for Christ’s obedience. The verse is not referring to every single obedient thing Christ did in His earthly life, but is rather referring to a one-time act: more than likely His death–“Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him” (Romans 5:9).

I do not think a person can legitimately take the Greek to mean that Romans 5:19 refers to Christ’s active obedience. It’s referring to one thing.

Furthermore, according to the same context, Paul speak of our justification (justification means being made righteous). He never says our righteousness was achieved by Christ keeping the law for us, but notice what he does chalk our righteousness up to:

who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
–Romans 4:25

Justification was accomplished not by Christ’s life, nor even His death alone, but also by His resurrection.

One of my main problems with the teaching of Active Obedience is that it

1) Makes justification based on works. Paul is adamant on the point that works of the law don’t justify. If that’s the case, why do we think Christ’s works of the law justify us? If righteous come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain!

2) Makes the resurrection pointless. The entire Monergism definition of Active Obedience  never once mentions the resurrection. It gets skipped. The reason why is because they don’t really need resurrection, yet Paul says Christ’s resurrection is what justifies us!

The quote above by the professor does not even mention any aspect of the Gospel and yet is about how to receive eternal life! If we’re saved by Christ’s active obedience, then the Gospel is not needed.

I know Reformed Theology is not trying to undermine the Gospel, but frequently, in order to support their ideas, it does.

Be sober and watch and pray.

KJV Vocabulary Lesson #2

In my ongoing quest to un-NIV Christendom (because really, you’re better than that), here is my next KJV vocabulary lesson.

Today’s KJV Vocabulary word is

RAVIN

RAVIN

It can be used as a noun or a verb.

NOUN: torn up chunks of animals
“The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with ravin.” Nahum 2:12

VERB: to tear in pieces, cut
“Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf.” Genesis 49:27

So, next time you are doing your small group study on Nahum you will be able to impress people with your deep knowledge of The King’s English.

Which buys you no points with God, but it does impress the chicks.

KJV Vocabulary Lesson #1

I use the King James Version. I do this because I like it and I memorize in it. I can’t find stuff in other Bibles.

I get tired of people saying how hard the KJV is to understand. There is a way to redeem that situation: learn.

Seriously, you could. Just because it uses outdated words doesn’t mean you can’t learn what they mean. A little effort can provide you a great reading experience.  It will also allow you to rock Scrabble, Boggle, WordTwist and many other word-based games.

In an effort to un-NIV Christendom, allow me to edikate you in a fine piece of KJV Vocabulary.

Today’s KJV Vocab word is:

STOMACHER.

STOMACHER.

It is found in Isaiah 3:24 in the phrase, “and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth.”

A stomacher is an expensive robe usually worn at festive occasions. Now you know. And, honestly, that phrase sounds much cooler than the NIV’s bland “instead of fine clothing, sackcloth.”

BOOOORING.

KJV rules.

Theological Word Of Today

Today’s Theological Word is: Arianism. Arianism.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a TWOT but I came across this one and figured it would be a good way to reintroduce the TWOT. TWOT. TWOT. Fun to say.

Anyway, to arius is human, especially if your name is Arius of Alexandria. Back when Christianity was sane, during the severe persecution of the first two centuries of the Church, there were very few heresies. But as soon as Constantine gave the official sanction to Christianity, everything fell apart.

Bright lights attract strange bugs. Heresy abounded as the Church settled into comfort. Arianism was the first major heresy. Arius thought that God made Christ, thus Christ is not really God, he’s someone that God created.

This destroyed his view of the Trinity and he placed Christ in subjection with God the Father rather than in equality. The Council of Nicea in 325 was called primarily to thwart Arius and get him booted. Booted he was as the Nicean Creed officialized the Church’s opposition to his teaching.

However, Arianism still hangs on in Unitarians, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, Liberation Theology and Islam. It also hangs on in the minds of many believers who are not careful with their words. There are major ramifications of getting your Trinitarian views messed up.

Be careful out there.

Theological Word Of Today

Today’s theological word is: Liberation Theology. Liberation Theology.

I have seen this in many places and always assumed I knew what it meant, but today I decided to look it up to find out for sure.

Liberation Theology is the view of Scripture that seeks to prove that God wants all people to eat liver. Oh wait, oops. That’s “Liveration Theology,” which is completely different.

Liberation Theology sees Christ as not only a Savior but a man who desires all oppressed people to be liberated, primarily poor people. It is primarily a Catholic concept. The founder is often seen to be Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Liberation theology also emphasizes individual self-actualization as part of God’s divine purpose for humankind. In other words, we are given life so that we may pursue it to its full potential. Therefore, obstacles or oppressions put in our path must be resisted and abolished.

Some proponents have also added basic Marxist ideas to it. Any Christian who uses the word “praxis” is probably a Liberation Theologian type. If they use the words “intentional praxis” you should just run the opposite way real fast.

Theological Word Of Today

Today’s theological word is Sabellianism. Sabellianism.

Sabellianism is the act or process of owning or purchasing a Mercury Sable. Sables are nice four-door sedans and inspire much dedication by their happy owners. However, you need to be over 67 years of age to own one, leading to feelings of exclusivity.

Not really, I just made that up. Sabellianism is a belief about the trinity. It holds that there is one God but he reveals himself in three ways. There are not three persons, but three ways God is revealed.

This doctrine, believed by most to be heretical, is named after Sabellius, a guy. Tertullian, the well known scientist of turtle behavior, was his main opponent. Today there are still a few Sabellianists around in the Oneness Pentecostal churches.