Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Eschatological Schizophrenia?

For the last couple days I've been pondering how well-known neo-conservative evangelicals, like Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, et al, are able to reconcile their seemingly premillennial eschatology with that of Christian Reconstructionists and other Dominion Theology/Kingdom Now advocates with whom they often cooperate in the common goal of taking over the nation and world quite literally for Christ. I'm not so sure about where Robertson stands now, but as far as I know LaHaye and Falwell are still premillennial at least publicly, though one might say as Gary North does that they are "operational" postmillennialists. Well, leave it to the Chalcedon Foundation to have thought about this as well and provide their analysis of the situation:

Jerry [Falwell]'s Liberty University, and the Chalcedon Foundation, of which I am executive vice president, are on an eschatological collision course. Let me explain. We both agree that Christ will return one day visibly to earth ("The Second Coming"). We disagree radically on what will precede that great event. While Liberty and LaHaye are dispensational, we at Chalcedon are postmillennial. We believe that Christ is already reigning from the heavens (Acts 2:29-36). He extends His kingdom in the earth by His Spirit, using redeemed humans, Christians (Acts 2:14-21). The Bible teaches that Christ will return after all human enemies are placed under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24-27). Jesus indicates that it will be a good, long time between His First Coming and His Second Coming (Mk. 13:32-37; Lk. 12:37-48). Between these two Comings, the kingdom of God will grow slowly, almost imperceptibly (Mt. 13:31-33). But it will one day overwhelm the earth. Then will be fulfilled the great Old Testament prophecy that "[T]he earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14). There will be a fully Christian culture on earth – not only after Christ's Second Coming, but also before.

I'm no big fan of Falwell and Lahaye, mainly because they are consistently in league with Christian Reconstructionists and other Dominionists to establish a theocracy... oops, theonomy... on Earth before Christ's return, but there are several problems with this paragraph.

First, those who are premillennial are not all "dispensationalists," and are not all "pessimists" as the Christian Reconstruction movement would have one believe. There is also something called historic premillennialism which some say is the oldest eschatological position in Christiandom. Also, ANY position that has Jesus Christ bodily returning to earth is not "pessimistic," which means ALL Christians who await His return, not just the Christian Reconstructionists, believe in an "eschatology of victory."

The next two points I agree with. However, one Scripture passage here is totally taken out of context and twisted oh-so-slightly to say something the Bible absolutely doesn't say...

Chalcedon version: The Bible teaches that Christ will return after all human enemies are placed under His feet (1 Cor. 15:24-27).

But, hmm, does it really?

The Bible says this, in context (1 Corinthians 15: 23-27 NIV; from Biblegateway):

But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet."

There are two very serious problems with Chalcedon's interpretation of this passage. While it doesn't exclude postmillennialism in general, it doesn't support this particular flavor of postmillennialism wishing to take literal dominion of the earth for Christ before his return, either. First, this passage does not at all refer to human enemies. The last I knew, death wasn't a human enemy, except maybe on Halloween. This doesn't refer to secular governmental authorities, or those pesky, sinful non-Christians. Whether one is pre-, post-, a-, or I-have-no-friggin'-clue-millennial, our enemies are not human. This is blatantly anti-Gospel since Jesus exhorts us time and again to love our brothers, neighbors, and yes, even (human) enemies. In contrast, Ephesians 6:12 reminds us that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." The real rulers and authorities we must resist are spiritual, not human.

Second, verse 23, which was conveniently omitted from Chalcedon's argument, makes it even more clear that Jesus Christ is the one who is going to hand the kingdom over to God the Father, "then when he comes," not us. And it doesn't state or even remotely imply that we will hand it over to Jesus first, either. Jesus is the one who is going to destroy all dominion, authority and power, and He's the one who will reign until He places all enemies under His feet; again, not us. This doesn't necessarily rule out postmillennialism (especially when viewed in light of Hebrews 10:13), but it DOES rule out human dominionism, which is really what Christian Reconstruction and Dominion Theology are about, in the guise of eschatology. Pretty scary when you think about it - because this passage states that ALL dominion will be destroyed. It doesn't say "except that dominion taken in His name" or anything like that. An awful lot of work buiding a theocracy just to have Jesus destroy it when you proudly hand it over, huh?

If there is to be a fully Christian culture on earth before the Second Coming as Chalcedon claims (and I believe there will be, just not the type that Dominionists do), then perhaps this is how we are to build it:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25 NIV, from BibleGateway)

This is pretty radical. No guns, no stealth government coups, no trying to reimpose Mosaic law, no stonings... Let's meet and encourage one another, spurring each other on toward love and good deads, and all the more as the end approaches. Sounds so like Jesus to me. And not the General Jesus, card-carrying member of the GOP some would have us believe He is, but the Jesus Christ who commanded us to love one another and in a final act of ultimate love, laid down His life as sacrifice for our sins.


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