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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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Eschatology by Ethos

It is quite common in Reformed circles these days to identify eschatological systems as essentially "optimistic" or "pessimistic." Of course, "optimism" is good, while "pessimism" is bad. 

Since no one wants to be a pessimist when it comes to understanding the end-times (the Bible is very clear that Jesus wins in the end), postmillennarians champion their system as "optimistic" (and therefore biblical), while all others (including Reformed amillennarians) are decried as essentially pessimistic (and therefore, defeatist). 

I'm convinced this is not a very helpful standard by which to evaluate any eschatological system.  In this essay, I argue my case by pointing out how this paradigm came to be used in Reformed circles and why it fails to account for all the biblical data--some of which speaks of a suffering church and times of great tribulation.

The kind folks at Modern Reformation Magazine have given me permission to post my recent article from the September/October 2011 edition here on the Riddleblog.

Here's the link. Eschatology by Ethos   

Reader Comments (4)

A most EXCELLENT review of this issue. Having been greatly blessed by much of your work, it is doubly joyful to read this and have it available.
September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Brogden
Another thought just came to me, pardon for a double post: One of my elders, in teaching prospective members the 1689 LBC (we are Reformed Baptists), described some of the product of Bahnsen's theology (not using him by name, but the description is spot-on) as "postmillenial, theonomic re-constructionists". We have these is our camp, as well.
September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStuart Brogden
Dr. Riddlebarger,

With all due respect, I want to express my disappointment in your article specifically when it comes to your representation of Dr. Bahnsen. I understand that there are those in reconstructionist camps that might be justly critiqued as thinking the reason to evangelize is to transform the culture, but Bahnsen was not one of those.

Bahnsen was indeed a theonomist and he did hold to the view of "Christian ethics" that called for obedience to God's law in society, but he never put the transformation of the culture as the primary goal of evangelizing (or anything else for that matter). Evangelization was an important topic to him and he spent a much greater amount of his public teaching efforts toward apologetics than he did ethics.

For example, you said: "Transforming culture is no longer understood to be the incidental fruit of the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth."

I can promise you that this is NOT what Bahnsen believed or taught. He even explicitly says the opposite in some of his recordings. Bahnsen very much gives the same impression as the Princeton Theologians: evangelize, evangelize, missions, evangelize. Warfield was one of his heroes. Transformation was a byproduct even to him, never a goal. For you to lump him into this group of people you describe is simply just unfair to him (he can't defend himself) and frankly it is misrepresentation.

You say "It is one thing to be optimistic about the eventual evangelism of the world through the spread of the gospel. It is quite another to see the goal of evangelism as the rise of nations governing themselves by the theocratic elements of the Law of Moses."

I don't understand why people are allowed to get away with this sort of rhetoric. What leading theonomist has ever said "the goal of evangelism" is the rise of nations governing themselves by theonomy? I've studied tons of Bahnsen's materials over the years and I've never come across this type of position. But the position you describe is so ludicrous that I can't imagine even scary Gary North saying such a thing. It's a straw man argument and I would like to think that men of your caliber are above such rhetorical tactics. If you aren't going to retract this as a straw man, can you at least provide references to back up your statements?

There is more I could say in detail about your piece, including taking issue with your premise of the "optimistic/pessimistic" paradigm, but I will leave it for now with just the complaint about the straw man you build up. It sure is easier to knock down a man made of straw, isn't it?

Please don't misrepresent Bahnsen anymore.


September 2, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKazooless
Thoroughly enjoyed this article because of it's postive assertion that here, we have no abiding city! Yes, let the transformation of culture be the according fruit of the gospel, it couldn't be truly transformative otherwise.
After reading the disagreement from Kazooless, I would like to hear more about the different eschatological camps at Princeton. Guess what, I Googled the topic and whose writing did I find? More to read.....
September 5, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan V.

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