The Present Evil Age: A Brief Refutation of Postmillennialism

map-on-fireAn Insoluble Dilemma for Postmillennialism

In Paul’s opening greeting to the church in Galatia, he declares that “the Lord Jesus Christ… gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.”[1] These verses are important, as they state in no uncertain terms that (a.)Christ died for our sins, (b.)Christ’s death delivers us from the present age, and (c.)the present age is evil. Throughout the New Testament, we learn that history after the ascension of our Lord is divisible into two antithetical periods of time, viz. this age and the age to come.[2] This age, the present age, is evil, corrupt, corruptible and passing away.[3] The age to come is everlasting, incorruptible, and filled with righteousness. God has sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins, and save us from this present evil age.

The Gospel, we can say, is explicitly concerned with God saving his people from this present age. This is a problem for the postmillenialist, for, on the one hand, if Paul is only identifying his time as “the present evil age” from which Christ has come to deliver us, then the Gospel onlyhad application to those living in his time; and on the other hand, if Paul’s description of the Gospel (Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins) and its secondary intended goal (i.e. to save us from this present evil age) is being addressed to all New Covenant believers until Christ returns, then all New Covenant believers will need to be delivered from the age in which they live (i.e. the present evil age). If Paul’s words only applied to the Galatians, then the Gospel is not for us, for the secondary intention of the Gospel, Paul says, is to save us from this present evil age. If Paul’s words apply to us, then there will not ever be a golden age which is not evil and from which we will not need to be delivered.

Are Paul’s Words Inapplicable to Us?

Briefly, the answer to the above question is No. As the apostle tells us in 1st Timothy 3:16-17:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

All of Scripture is applicable until Christ returns and redeems his elect from this present evil age. Not only this, but the Scriptures are applicable as such so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work. Among those good works are the works of ministry in preaching the law, calling sinners to repentance, and preaching the good news that Christ has died for our sins to deliver us from this present evil age. As God himself has said:

…this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.[4]

The Gospel of the Kingdom could be a reference to either the Gospel narratives or the Gospel proper a la 1st Cor 15:1-3. In either case, however, the fact of the matter is that the present age was evil in Paul’s day, is evil in our day, and will remain evil until Christ returns to judge the living and the dead and take his bride into eternity. As Herman Hanko notes,

…the whole body of Biblical data…describes the days prior to the coming of Christ as days in which lawlessness abounds (Matthew 24:12), persecution is the lot of God’s people (Matthew 24:16-22, Revelation 11:13,17, etc.), and Antichrist reigns in a universal kingdom in which there is no room for the saints of Christ.[5]

If this is denied, then so is the Gospel of God’s grace.

A Devastating Additional Logical Consequence (And Its Further Entailments)

Additionally, we may delineate a further logical consequence of not identifying the entire timeline from the ascension of Christ until his return as the present evil age. Simply put, doing so would render Christ fallible with respect to the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom, for the Gospel of the Kingdom tells us that Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from this present age. If the present age, when Christ returns, is not evil and something from which we must be delivered, then that age would have no need of the Gospel being preached. And if the Gospel is not being preached at the time when Christ returns, then he is mistaken when saying that he will returnafter the Gospel of the Kingdom has been preached to all the world.[6] 

Thus, the age in which Christ returns and judges the living and the dead must of a necessity be evil and something from which we must be delivered – or Christ is fallible. If Christ is fallible, then Christ is not omniscient. If Christ is not omniscient, then Christ is not God. If Christ is not God, then he was wrong about his own identity. If he was wrong about his own identity, then the apostles who believed he was God were also in error. If they were in error, then the Scriptures are fallible. If the Scriptures are fallible, then they are not the Word of God. If they are not the Word of God, then we do not have knowledge of God and we are not saved.

Occupy Till He Comes…

The church is commanded to preach the Word in season and out of season, and this is what we must do. The expectation of a future golden age is not derived from Scripture, for part of preaching the Word is declaring that the present age is an evil age from which we must be delivered, and that our deliverance from it is a secondary intended goal of our Lord’s death on Calvary. This is the hope of sinners convicted of their sins, restoration to fellowship with God now and in the age to come. Our hope is not in a golden era in the present age, but in our Lord’s destruction of his enemies and establishment of a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwell so that our communion with him will be unhindered by remaining sin within ourselves as well as in the world.

Soli Deo Gloria.

-h.


[1] Gal 1:3b-4a.

[2] See Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Eph 1:20-22; Heb 6:4-6.

[3] 1st John 2:17.

[4] Matt 24:14.

[5] http://testallthings.com/2012/03/10/herman-hanko-the-illusory-hope-of-postmillennialism.

[6] Although commentators disagree regarding the extent to which the Gospel will preached, they nonetheless agree that it will continue to be preached until Christ returns.

The Enduring Relevance of the Old Testament – Even Leviticus

Lord God the Son Our PassoverA Rebuke & A Reminder

In our sinfulness and pride, we often read the book of Leviticus speedily, as if we know that there could be nothing more to the text than what we perceive to be boring, elaborate, and irrelevant prescriptions for worshiping God in the obsolete wilderness tabernacle and Jerusalem temple. Yet when we take the time to thoughtfully walk through the text, to hear the words of God, to listen to the subtle details of what our Lord is revealing to his people, we quickly see the folly of our prior assumptions. Firstly, let us remember that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”[1] This means that no part of Scripture lacks use or power to teach us reprove us, correct us, and train us in righteousness. Secondly, let us also remember that “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”[2] This means that no part of Scripture is inapplicable to us. Contemporary scholars, operating under a canopy of false unbiblical assumptions, often claim that the Scriptures were not written to us. However, this is not at all what Scripture itself says. Whatever was written in former days, Scripture says, was written for our instruction.

Jesus likewise tells us that what Moses wrote is what God says to us.[3] Similarly, Paul tells us that the events of the Old Testament narratives “took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they [the nation of Israel] did.”[4] The book of Leviticus, therefore, is neither useless nor powerless, nor is it a relic of Israel’s past that was never intended for us to read and study and digest and unto which we are to be conformed. Leviticus is the Word of God written for and to the Church.

The Gospel is in the Details

This is why carefully reading through the book of Leviticus is so important, as is reading all of Scripture carefully. In reading too quickly, we may miss the important fact that God sees all men of every economic class as sinners. As it is written:

“…if anyone sins…”[5]


“…if
anyone sins…”[6]

“…if anyone…sins…”[7]

“…if anyone utters with his lips a rash oath…and realizes his guilt…”[8]

“…if anyone commits a breach of faith and sins…”[9]

“…if anyone sins…”[10]

“…if anyone sins and commits a breach of faith…”[11]

Note that the universal anyone is used, indicating that there are no social or economic classes of individuals who are without sin and the temptation to sin (which is only present in sinners). Indeed, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[12] Reading too quickly through the book of Leviticus could very well keep us from seeing that the nation of Israel was not a caste system, nor was it a tyrannical system of clerical rule over the unwashed Israelite masses (as so many atheists claim it was).Anyone who sins is guilty before the Lord. Anyone is able and willing to sin. Everyone is already indicted, therefore, as a sinner.

Continuing on in the text, however, we learn that not only are all men sinners, but that God has provided a means of sacrifice, atonement for men of all social and economic classes. As it is written:

…when [anyone who has sinned] realizes his guilt…and confesses the sin he has committed, he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat, for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin.

But if he cannot afford a lamb, then he shall bring to the Lord as his compensation for the sin that he has committed two turtledoves or two pigeons, one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering…

But if he cannot afford two turtledoves or two pigeons, then he shall bring as his offering for the sin that he has committed a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering. He shall put no oil on it and shall put no frankincense on it, for it is a sin offering. And he shall bring it to the priest, and the priest shall take a handful of it as its memorial portion and burn this on the altar, on the Lord‘s food offerings; it is a sin offering. Thus the priest shall make atonement for him for the sin which he has committed in any one of these things, and he shall be forgiven.[13]

As the law condemns anyone who has sinned [i.e. everyone], so the atonement provided by God comes to anyone who repents and believes that Good News. What Good News? The Good News that he shall be forgiven. Just as no one can identify his social or economic class as legitimate justification for his sins, so too no one can identify his social or economic class as legitimate justification for fearing that he cannot be made right with God. The Law condemns all of its addressees (i.e. the totality of humanity, with the sole exception of Christ Jesus) as sinners; the Gospel justifies all of its addressees (i.e. the totality of God’s elect from the foundation of the world until the Lord Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead).

Whether one can afford a lamb, or can only afford two turtledoves or pigeons, or can only afford fine flour, God has provided atonement for their sins.

Leviticus’ identification of sinners as belonging to every social and economic class of Israel, and its identification of atonement as provided for sinners who belong to every social and economic class of Israel, remind us of the importance of reading the text of Scripture closely, reverently, carefully, remembering that “it is they that bear witness about [Christ our Savior and Lord].”[14]

Soli. Deo. Gloria.

-h.


[1] 2nd Tim 3:16. (emphasis added)

[2] Rom 15:4. (emphasis added)

[3] See, for example, Matt 22:31.

[4] 1st Cor 10:6. (emphasis added)

[5] Lev 4:2.

[6] Lev 4:27.

[7] Lev 5:1.

[8] Lev 5:4.

[9] Lev 5:15.

[10] Lev 5:17.

[11] Lev 6:2.

[12] Rom 3:23.

[13] Lev 5:5-13.

[14] John 5:39.

T.D. Jakes’ Stance on Homosexuality is Irrelevant

Trinity2God is Triune not Trimanifestational 

Recently, T.D. Jakes has been in the news over some things he said regarding homosexuality. His apparently “gay-affirming” statements have been posted and reposted on social media, with many feeling betrayed by “the bishop” whom they thought would take the biblical position on this matter (i.e. homosexuality is a sin, an abomination that must be repented of and forgiven by God). Jakes’ stance, however, shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who is aware of his doctrine of God. Jakes’ official statement of faith makes it clear that the deity in whom he believes, to whose service he is indebted is not the God of the Bible. The Potter’s House website states in no unclear terms that

There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.[1]

If Jakes rejects the most foundational doctrine of the Scriptures (i.e. the being and attributes of the One True and Triune God Almighty), why would anyone expect him to accept what the Bible teaches regarding human sexuality?

Whether or not Jakes is “gay-affirming,” in other words, is really of no importance seeing as he is an unbeliever. It is true that his statement of faith is apparently orthodox on the matter of salvation, claiming that “the shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ by faith are born of the Holy Spirit and thus become children of God.”[2] However, given Jakes’ espousal of the false belief that the Persons of the Trinity are manifestations of a uni-personal god, it is nonsensical. Let me explain.

The belief that the One True God is uni-personal and exists in three distinct manifestations is called modalism or Sabellianism, and it implies that God the Father could not send God the Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the elect. Why? Because if the Father is a manifestation, and the Son is a manifestation, and the Holy Spirit is a manifestation, then the Father and Son and Holy Spirit are simply masks, roles, jobs that the hidden true god of modalism puts on in his interaction with humans. Modalism implies that the Father and the Son are the same divine person; ergo, modalism destroys the Gospel which teaches us that the Father and Son and Holy Spirit, acting in perfecting harmony, reciprocally are working out an eternal plan of salvation. The Father sends the Son; the Son obeys and fulfills the Father’s will; the Holy Spirit causes Mary to conceive the Son, according to the will of the Father and Son and Spirit; etc. Jakes’ modalism reduces the Persons of the Godhead to functions of a uni-personal ur-god, hidden behind various manifestations. Each manifestation is the same person and this implies that the divine person on the cross of calvary is the same divine person the Scriptures identify as God the Father.

T.D. Jakes’ theology makes salvation impossible; and Jakes has not renounced his theology but only dug his heels in deeper, claiming that he’s “not crazy about the word ‘persons’,” and that his “doctrinal statement is really no different from yours except for the word ‘manifest’ instead of ‘person,’ which you describe as modalist and I describe as Pauline…”[3] This is not a theological shift toward Trinitarianism, for God is Triune and not trimanifestational.  By insisting that God is trimanifestational, Jakes reveals that he has not repented of his idolatry, but has only chosen to further deceive the ignorant by claiming to believe in a god that is  “really no different” from the One True God in whom Christians believe. Jakes is not a Christian brother; he rejects what the Bible clearly teaches about God (i.e. that he is a Trinity). As a consequence of this, the Jesus Christ in whom he believes is not the eternal Second Person of the Trinity, the personal Logos of God whom the apostle John writes about in his Gospel. Additionally, the father in whom Jakes believes is not the Eternal Father who, in communion with the Son, ordained his Son to be born of a virgin and die for the sins of the elect. Likewise, the spirit in which Jakes believes is not the Holy Spirit sent from the Father and the Son. Jakes’ god is an idol, a demonic imposter.

-h.


[2] ibid.

Blurred Lines: A Critique of Trans-Everything-Ism [Part 3 of 3]

crud[Continued from pts. 1 & 2]

The Incoherence of Materialistic Monism

If the only substance is matter, then it follows from this that minds are merely modifications, in some way, of matter. As the monist philosopher Galen Strawson notes, “every concrete phenomenon in the universe is physical, according to materialists. So all mental phenomena, including experiential phenomena, are physical phenomena…”.[11] Not all materialist philosophers have followed their philosophical commitment to its logical conclusions, as Strawson also notes.[12] The contemporary embracing of materialistic monism, due to its presence and influence in the slowly decaying corpus of postmodern popular culture, nevertheless, is undeniable. Whereas the postmodern emphasis on difference and variety has been largely lost, the underlying metaphysical belief is still the same: From Deleuze’s equation of the plural with the monad, and vice versa, through reassessments of Friedrich Nietzsche’s ontological and value monism,[13] the contemporary culture is given to the belief that matter is the only individual thing there is.[14] But is it any more tenable than the postmodernism it gave foundational support to? No.

The logical impossibility of materialism is something I’ve covered in other articles,[15] as is the logical impossibility of monism.[16] Philosopher Peter van Inwagen, however, very succinctly addresses the main problem I have (somewhat clumsily) pointed out elsewhere. van Inwagen:

The word ‘monism’ comes from a Greek word that means ‘alone’ or ‘single’. As we have said, Monism is the thesis that there is only one individual thing. But this statement of Monism raises an interesting question. If there is only one individual thing, what is meant by calling it an individual thing? We have seen that an individual thing is a thing that is in some not-too-well-defined sense a separate thing. But if there is only one individual thing, what is it “separate” from? t can’t be its own parts it is separate from, for, if it had parts, those parts would themselves be individual things: an individual thing with parts would “automatically” not be the only individual thing. (For example, if the World consisted of a single chair, there would be many individual things. There would be the legs of the chair, the back of the chair, various carbon and oxygen atoms that were parts of the chair, and so on.)

[…]

Let us therefore understand Monism as the thesis that there is a single individual thing and that, moreover, this thing could not possibly have coexisted with any other individual thing. And let us say that it is a part of the thesis of Monism that that is the way the World has to be: the World must consist of a single individual thing that could not possibly coexist with any other individual thing.When Monism is so stated, it is indeed difficult to see what the Monist could mean by saying that there is only one individual thing, for it is difficult to see in what sense the word ‘separate’ could be applied to a thing that not only does not but could not coexist with other individual things, and it is therefore difficult to see what is meant by applying the word ‘individual’ to the thing that is supposed to be the one individual thing.[17]

Materialistic monism is counterintuitive and logically incoherent.

Yet the contemporary emphasis on trans-everything-ism reveals that fallen man is ultimately not concerned with truth but with finding justification for continuing in unbelief, licentiousness, and self-righteousness. Pragmatism has come to replace the revelation, commands, and promises of God.[18] Consequently, salvation is no longer the act of God for us; rather, salvation is by us for us. How is that salvation achieved? By changing one’s standards, one’s ethical commitments, one’s “truths” in order to better suit one’s needs. The pangs of conscience are suppressed by this continual shifting of epistemological and ethical commitments and standards, but this is precisely where Christians can reintroduce the reality of sin, judgment, and the Gospel.

Try as he may, fallen man cannot wholly (i.e. consistently) embrace a worldview where no concept is irrational. Rather than properly assessing non-Christian worldview as irrational, however, he identifies the biblical worldview as irrational. Paul the apostle, speaking tongue in cheek, calls the Gospel “the foolishness of God,”[19] setting it in contrast with “the wisdom of the world,”[20] and consequently revealing that the pragmatism resulting in a variety of moral and epistemological standards is reducible to a unified assault on the biblical worldview. Gordon H. Clark, commenting on 1st Corinthians 1, explains:

Secular science never brought anyone to God. God regards it as foolishness and will destroy it. Divine wisdom centers in the doctrine of the Atonement.

[…]

Since these people [i.e. the so-called “wise men of this age”] are dead in sin, they regard the Gospel as nonsense.

[…]

Note that God foreordained pagan philosophy…for the purpose of blinding their eyes and hardening their hearts. The course of secular culture was no haphazard development. It was by the wisdom of God in controlling history that…the Greek philosophers [and, by extension, their successors/devotees] could not know God.[21]

Hence, the pragmatism/irrationalism of our time is foolishness to God; and God’s Wisdom is foolishness to fallen man in all eras. And this is where we may continually hammer home, as it were, the fact that even antiessentialism and antifoundationalism are either wisdom or foolishness, or the Gospel is Wisdom or foolishness. There is no escape from this antithesis.

The world’s desire is to throw the sands of multiple worldviews into the eyes of its Christian opponents. Let us, then, guard ourselves against the claims of pragmatism/irrationalism/relativism by reinforcing the antithesis. Either man or God is wise or a fool, even the foolish can see that.

-h.


[11] Real Materialism and Other Essays (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 21.

[12] Strawson (54):

It follows that real physicalism can have nothing to do with physicsalism, the view — the faith — that the nature or essence of all concrete reality can in principle be fully captured in the terms of physics. Real physicalism cannot have anything to do with physicsalism unless it is supposed — obviously falsely — that the terms of physics can fully capture the nature or essence of experience. […] Real physicalism, then, must accept that experiential phenomena are physical phenomena. But how can experiential phenomena be physical phenomena? Many take this claim to be profoundly problematic (this is the ‘mind – body problem’).

[…]

A very large mistake. It is perhaps Descartes’s, or perhaps rather ‘Descartes’s’, greatest mistake, and it is funny that in the past fifty years it has been the most fervent revilers of the great Descartes, the true father of modern materialism, who have made the mistake with most intensity. Some of them… are so in thrall to the fundamental intuition of dualism, the intuition that the experiential and the physical are utterly and irreconcilably different, that they are prepared to deny the existence of experience, more or less (c)overtly, because they are committed to ‘physicalism’, that is, physicsalism.

[13] See Nietzsche on Mind & Nature, eds. Dries, Manuel & P.J.E. Kail. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

[14]See Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne, David Ray Griffin, John B. Cobb Jr., et al. (New York: SUNY Press, 1993); Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994); Badiou, Alan. Being and Event, trans. Oliver Feltham (New York: Continuum, 2007);

[17] Metaphysics (Boulder: Westview Press, 2009), 34-35. For a more thoroughgoing critique of the position, as articulated by Spinoza and F. H. Bradley, see pp. 38-46 of the same work.

[18] This is unsurprising given that pragmatism originated with Charles Sanders Peirce, himself a materialistic monist. See Ochs, Peter. “Charles Sanders Peirce,” in See Founders of Constructive Postmodern Philosophy: Peirce, James, Bergson, Whitehead, and Hartshorne, 43-87.

[19] 1st Cor 1:25.

[20] 1st Cor 1:20-21 & 3:19.

[21] First Corinthians: A Contemporary Commentary (Maryland: The Trinity Foundation, 1975), 21ff.