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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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An Interesting Question

eschatology%20q%20and%20a.jpgDavid Neal asks an interesting and important question:

"When are reformed writers going to start writing books in language that the average person can understand. They are plenty of good books out there on eschatology but I can't give many to may friends because they are over their heads. It seems to me if the message is going to get out, it is going to have to be understood. I am speaking for myself also. It seems to me we should be trying to reach the masses."

David, as someone who has written extensively on this subject, let me address some of the reasons why books on eschatology tend to be difficult.  Then, I'd like some feedback from regular readers of this blog on a couple of things (see below).

First, most of us who write on eschatology do so because there are already many books written on the subject expressing nutty or erroneous ideas which demand a response.  Most writers take the sensationalist approach and attempt to tie current events directly to the Bible.  These books tend to be the easiest to understand because they appeal to recent headlines.  But such writers mistakenly come to the Bible looking for evidence that the latest headline can be explained by Scripture.  They tend to avoid the hard work of comparing Scripture with Scripture and then developing a comprehensive picture what Scripture itself says about the course of history in light of God's gracious promises. 

Other writers begin with a number of faulty presuppositions which color everything they say or do when they write about end times (i.e., dispensationalists). My published writings are addressed to those Christians who have already read much of this stuff and who want to consider other (and I would argue, more biblical) options.  This means that I am writing books for people who already know the lingo and who already have some basic understanding of the issues.

Second, not everything in the Bible is easy to understand.  On the one hand, biblical eschatology is as simple as "Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the world, raise the dead and make all things new."  We could stop right there.  But you know that Scripture itself doesn't stop at this simple confession.  Jesus speaks of the future  in difficult ways (especially in the Olivet Discourse).  Paul speaks of the future (especially in his two letters to the church of Thessalonica).  Peter speaks of the end of the world in the third chapter of his second letter.  And then there is the Book of Revelation.  This is not an easy book to understand.  The structure of the book is complicated--it is an epistle, it contains prophecies and it utilizes a difficult literary genre, apocalyptic.  This means the subject of eschatology as presented in the Bible itself is difficult and requires careful thought and biblical exegesis.

Third, there are some basic resources on this topic which you might consider.  You can start with the helpful charters prepared by Mark Vander Pol (Click here: Riddleblog - Eschatology Charts).  There are introductory articles by others (Click here: Riddleblog - Links to Helpful Books, Essays, and Charts, as well as stuff I have written (Click here: Riddleblog - Theological Essays -- scroll down to the essay, "What's A Thousand Years Among Friends."  You can also read my sermons on Revelation (Click here: Riddleblog - Sermons on the Book of Revelation (pdf)

Fourth, I would simply ask you, "do you have a hobby, or any other special interests?"  "Do you have a specialized vocabulary at work?"  If you can say  "yes" to any of these, I would challenge you to realize something already obvious--virtually all aspects of life require that we learn technical terms or a specialized vocabulary.  Why shouldn't Christians be willing to learn the language of the Bible and theological discourse?  If you have watched enough baseball to understand the "infield fly rule," or enough football to understand the "fair-catch signal" on a punt, then you've invested enough time and energy on these things as it would take to master the biblical and theological terms required to understand most books on eschatology, including mine. 

Fifth, it is my experience that Reformed amillennialism is much simpler (conceptually) than is dispensationalism.  Part of the problem is that Reformed Christians speak about things (especially eschatology) in ways quite different from most evangelicals.  I found Reformed amillennialism tough at first because I was raised a disepnsationalist and it just sounded "different."  In a sense, I had to unlearn the eschatology of my youth, and then learn a whole new Christ-centered hermeneutic and a new approach to reading Scripture.  And yes, this is a lot of work!  And it took some time and effort.  But it was well worth it when huge portions of the Bible suddenly came alive for me.

Now, for those who regular readers, is there be any genuine interest in (or is there a real need for) a series on this blog entitled something like "Amillennialism 101" in which I would explain the basic terms and set out the primary biblical evidence for Reformed Amillennialism? 

This would be done in a very simple and non-polemical format.  If there is a need for this, I'd be willing to tackle it.  But don't just say "yes" unless there is truly a need.  What things should be included?  What format would be the most useful? Mr. Neal makes an important point in this regard and there may be some good ways to address it.

Let me know what you think in the comments section. 

Reader Comments (37)

As a reformed a-miller, my experience is that even when discussing eschatology with people who 'know the language' it seems like we talk past each other because even though we use the same language, we are defining words differently according to our hermeneutic. It tends to be a bit easier on my end because I used to be dispensational, but for one who has been taught that amillennialism is "heresy" or other such things, this is where the conversation gets snagged. My experience also matches up that if you put forth the effort, just like in baseball and football as you said, it's not as difficult as it seems to be at first.

I would love to see "Amill 101" series. No matter how far along in our study, it is always good to reinforce the "basics," so I think it would be good for those are not Amill, those who are but are new to it, and those who just want reinforcement as well. Basically, I don't see how it could hurt, and it could help keep another shepherds 07 from occuring. Ok that might be some wishful thinking...
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBryan
Dr. Riddlebarger -

Over on Rev, Brown's new blog ( he is starting posts on Basic Covenant Theology ( for people that do not have that vocabulary down pat and who find books about CT a little overwhelming (even God of Promise).

So on in a similar vein I think that your idea of posting Amillennialism 101 would be most helpful.

In response to your posting I have an anecdote relating to this. The pastor at my old church used to not use much "vocabulary" in his sermons, and it drove me nuts!! I questioned him about it on occasion, but he didn't like using the vocab because not all would understand. But he finally had a break through. His father was having heart troubles and was seeing a lot of doctors. When my pastor talked to his father about it all, his father was using the vocabulary of the doctor in talking about his heart! Through his ordeal he learned and was trained in very specific and complicated vocabulary concerning the human heart! My pastor's father was a garbage man who didn't have more than a forth-grade education! That got my pastor thinking that the same could be true of the church, he could train his congregation in the vocabulary, and they would have the ability to understand!

Thanks for the plug on my charts!!
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMark VPol
Dr. Kim,
I've thought that when reformed authors write they usually use a rather archaic-type style It's usually very plodding. I think we're so worried about being so well defined that everything becomes very intensive/extensive. It's difficult to interact w/Evangelicals because their theological writings are so shallow. But we seem to go in the opposite direction. I read a web site for some Reformed denomination about baptism or something and its laborious dissertation was so extensive (but correct) that I finally quite reading. My eyes melted. And anyone w/o a refored background would have given up long before. But it is a problem, dumming down is self-defeating, but having no one read our stuff might even be worse. I don't really know the answer. R
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRON H.
Two thoughts: 1) It seems to me that learning about the end times is a rather dispensational way of viewing things. Understanding amillennialism takes an understanding of the whole of Christian theology. Thus a primer on amillennialism would have to include a broader scope of theology in my opinion. 2) I am pained when folks complain that reading and studying are hard. Everything can't be pragmatic and simple. Complicated concepts can be made easy, but seriously, buy a dictionary and spend some time in the subject being studied.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Malamisuro
I agree with Chris above on both points and would like to add my own spin.

1.) Learning Reformed Amillennialism is much larger than defining a few words or presenting a some ideas. I began to understand Reformed Biblical Theology first, which logically led me to amillennial thinking. There is an entire context to these things and unless a person is serious about learning the "big-picture" these smaller conceptual issues will always seem confusing.

2.) Theological instruction is never easy, but for those who are willing to spend the long-hard hours that many of us have, then the rewards are fantastic. I guess what I am saying is that no one will really understand anything, unless they are ready to make the effort and work hard at the task. Dr. Riddlebarger would do a fine job with anything related to this subject, but it is my opinion that if someone is not willing to put in the hard work themselves then no matter how simple something is, it will never be good enough. David, read this blog, purchase some books, get a theological dictionary, and study the word and God and he will honor your pursuits.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChad
I would personally like to see an "Amill-101" series. As one who has grown up and graduated from a dispensational school and is now trying to relearn everything after discovering it was all wrong, a primer and extra help would be great for me. Thank you for being willing to walk people like me through it.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJake Tipton
I don't want to sound harsh, but one reason people don't understand the bible is do to the dumbing down of the Saints via the pulpit. I don't believe it just the Pastors fault, since scriptures command us to be able to give an account of the hope we have within us. As the people of faith we need to be feeding of God's word, studying it, meditation on it,memorizing it, and talking about it to other believers and even the unsaved. How can we neglect the very fountain of Life and think nothing of it. I vote for NO we don't need a Am...101. It takes just a little bit of work to familiarize yourself with the terminology. Study Study Study to show ones self approved, and pray for the help, leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterjason
You assume, Jason, that a Amill 101 series couldn't be used by some to "Study Study Study." Do you start by jumping straight into a Master's level Biochem class, or must you build from the foundation up? I do share your concerns though, there is great need for better personal study, pulpit teaching, and fellowship (where we actually talk about God's word with one another). However, I think a class on basics would be of help to those who want to study the subject.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBryan
Class? Sigh.

Blog series/etc
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterBryan
But Kim...I have found the Left Behind series very readable and easy to understand! :))
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTerry
I thought "A Case for Amillennialism (Understanding the End Times)" was Amil 101.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterGordon
I think it would have to start somewhere else besides eschatology. Dispensationalists start with a very different way of reading and interpreting scripture. Almost like an engineering specification.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterlee n. field
As church librarian currently in a PCA church, and as librarian for three years in another church before that, I beg you to reconsider spending more time on writing anything at all. Please redo the 12 audios originally done for CURE, or do a new amil set.

Most people want CD's. I am telling you the facts, I see what gets borrowed, and books are not in the majority. It is audios to listen to at home and in the car that are most popular.

This is a church with a lot of Univ students, and a highly educated congregation for the most part, plus WTS grads. This isn't the trailer park rural crowd, but they still want CD's the most. Not books! Sad but true.

Kim, you are THE BEST for eschatology, hands down. Our dear pastor says so and he is the king of all bookworms- and tapeworms!!!! He must be familiar with everything reform out there ever published, and he says you are the best. We agree. So you need to do the CDs. At the very least, the one of the 70th week in Daniel Ch 9 from the CURE set. Forget any more blog writing, please do the tapes.

My conscience may be terribly seared but we have no problem giving bootleg copies of the CURE stuff to friends, and it is in the church library. But I'd really like to see a new copyrighted legal set available. I do wish you would make it a prioity.

Thanks for all you do!
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered Commentercarolyn
Dr. Riddlebarger,

A blog series would be of some value. It's not a bad idea at all.

I have a somewhat bigger idea for you, however.

I hate to sound overly pragmatic, or overly "give 'em what they want" or Saddleback-ish, but why don't you write a novel that teaches amillennialism?

The reason why dispensationalists have a hard time understanding the Reformed faith is not because it's too overwhelming, or too complicated, or because there isn't accessible stuff out there for people to "take and read".

The reason is that they'd rather play a video game than read a book. They'd rather watch TV than learn about Jesus. But they might read a Harry Potter novel from time to time, so that they can tell themselves that they aren't a complete couch potatoe.

The fact is, this is the age of aquarius, the anti-intellectual age. People don't want Pauline theology, they want Johannine imperatives to love one another. They don't want to know anything about God, they just want to be in a relationship with him. This is really nothing new.

But people will read a novel. And you're a terrific writer. In fact, I think you're one of the most accessible writers I've ever read. I LOVE your writing. Your books on amillennialism are lucid and simple enough for junior high school students, frankly.

There are many, many people out there who would hate to read even the most accessible baby food style book on amillennialism. But they would read a story.

I'll even suggest a plot: say someone who is not saved gradually begins to learn about Christ. And let's say he learns in the Reformed way, first learning about the gospel, then learning about how all the Bible points to Christ, and then learning how that happens through covenant theology and the sweep of redemptive history. He learns all of this, joins a reformed church, gets baptized, gets married, has kids and baptizes them, and then one day, BAM! Christ returns and judges the living and the dead, and they all lived happily ever after (except those poor souls who waste away in hell forever of course.) And after Jesus returns, you can switch to a sort of apocalyptic style of writing, which you could then explain in terms of what's happening to the character.

In short, tell the story of a man who becomes reformed (but not from a dispy background, so that you can build from square 1 a reformed theology), and then experiences reformed theology coming true to life in the return of Jesus - without a 7 year tribulation or the global takeover of Christians, etc.

Tell the story of a man experiencing reformed theology happening.

You'll sell lots of books for uniqueness alone. Or at least, I predict you will, since you're such a good writer. I'll buy a copy.

Dr. Riddlebarger, give the reformed church its "Left Behind" novel. Then we will have something to hand our Evangelical friends that they will enjoy reading, which will capture their imagination, and which will convince them that it must be true.

Of course, the practice of using stories to compell people to believe great truth is nothing new, and as we all know from reading Jesus' parables, can be quite effective. Heck, even Plato's Myth of the Cave (book 7 of the Republic) is easily understood and remembered and even believed.

Dr. Riddlebarger, tell us a story. We'll listen.

(Just please don't make it a 12 part series which will have us standing in line at the bookstore every year, fighting over the last copy. That'd be mean. :) )

If anyone can do it, you can.
December 3, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterEcho_ohcE
I could really use and appreciate "Amillennialism 101". Having dissolved a dispensationalist background I am still hazy on the reformed view of things..but love to learn.
December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSteven
I agree with Gordon, and Carolyn. You already did an excellent book, but now its cd time. Everyone wants 'instant' ya know.
December 4, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterplw
We can't fall into the trap of modernism and write a fictional novel. I guarantee you it would get lumped in with the Left Behind, Da Vinci Code and the myriad other waste-of-space books currently on the market.

The Bible is fact and must be presented as such. No games, no gimmicks, no dumbing-down for a lazy society.

There are a couple of very good sermon series on Sermonaudio explaining Amillennialism. One, very detailed, is by Rev. Harold Chase.

Michael Barrett, FPC, has a series that refutes dispensationalism. Sometimes this is what is needed before proper eschatology can even be presented to an open mind.

Harold Chase does a comparative sermon series as well.

December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCheryl
If someone did write a series of books (a narrative) to demonstrate reformed amillenialism, it would really be just a church history. After all, Christ inaugurated the last age at His first advent and will close it at His second advent. We are living in eschatological times as we see Christ cause his Kingdom, the Church, to grow (ie the Gospel go forth to the nations, sometimes in triumph--sometimes in adversity). I have three or four church histories in my library. They are interesting to me, but that's because I love that stuff. Would that there were a writer who could make church history accessible to more Christians. Such a narrative wouldn't even have to be fiction. There are plenty of heroes and heroines of the Faith in the long history of the Church to occupy our reading time.

What are Hal Lindsey's helicopter-locusts to the likes of John Chrysostom, John Wicliff, or John Calvin?
December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDB
I'd like to add that KR's response to his inquirer was very well put, great points. Especially the use of "simple" throughtout, as simple is a consistent theme in all domains of good Reformed orthodoxy.

Everyone would be crazy to resist any blog series by someone so strong on Amillenarianism (would we turn down Gomarus explaining the 5 points?). And, though he is gracious enough to ask, I won't presume to suggest how to go about it...just bring it.

December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterZrim

Don't you wish you had amil eschatology spelled out simply for you when you found yourself having to unlearn dispensational premillennialism? Now that you've mastered it, isn't it only right that your job of feeding the sheep includes the effort to make introductory material as accessible as possible to give the unlearned on eschatology a boost in beginning to learn the specialized vocabulary and concepts of such a complex biblical topic?

I honestly don't see why writing amillennial eschatology on an utterly popular level needs to be argued for. Do it, even if you have to hire a "ghost writer" whom you would, of course, give second billing on the cover! Tim and Jerry need the competition from someone other than Hank.

Which brings up the glaring need for a series of truly non-preterist, amillennial end-times novels!!! Just kidding on that one, but not the rest.
December 4, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn D. Chitty

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