Optimistic About History

Doug Wilson is a pastor in Moscow, Idaho, a prolific writer and articulate defender of an optimistic eschatology.  Yes, he is an American Christian who actually believes the Bible says the world will get better, in history, before Christ returns.

The following are some admittedly disjointed comments from one article in his blog, but they give you a taste of his passion for the subject.

“Before I became postmillennial, I noticed something odd, and since then, some of the oddities seem even more so. Some of the most cogent cultural criticism I have ever read has come from postmillennialists, who described in excruciating and exact detail how and why our culture is falling apart. And yet, back in the day, there were pessimistic dispensationalists, those who specialized in understanding how this world is supposed to be falling apart, and yet who were pointing to culprits like the antichrist bar codes at Safeway. Why was that? …

I am an evangelical, the son of evangelicals. And while I know that my optimistic eschatology is not the majority report among evangelicals, I also know that testimonies are common enough fare. So here is my testimony. This is how postmillennialism happened to me.

… when David Chilton’s Paradise Restored came out, I decided to read it. This was late in 1985. As I was reading, I thought his hermeneutic was entertaining, but fluffy. This was me reading, recall, as an eschatological agnostic. When it came to the second coming, I didn’t think anything, except that it was going to happen sometime, somehow.

While I was reading, something happened that seemed to me largely independent of the case Chilton was making. He quoted 1 Cor. 15:25, and when I read those words, it was as though something snapped in my head. “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet.” I can hear my premillennial friends saying that something snapped in my head, all right, but bear with me. I am simply reporting what happened.

Jesus was in Heaven now, and He was reigning from there. He was going to continue to reign from that place until all His enemies here were subdued. All enemies, with the exception of the last enemy, death, were going to be subdued while Christ was still in Heaven. When He returned, He was going to destroy that one, remaining enemy. In the other systems, when Jesus returns, the first enemy to be destroyed is death.

When that verse snapped, like a dry twig, an eschatological paradigm fluttered together in my mind, like some kind of eschatological transformer-bot. Verses from all over crowded to line up together, hand-in-hand, and it was orderly, and amazing, and textual. The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand UNTIL . . .

… I recall one time saying to him (his son-in-law) that I had not preached on postmillennialism since he had gotten to Moscow. He replied, as an expert witness, that I didn’t have to — it pervades everything. It gets into everything. It becomes the context of everything.

… when postmillennialists get the blues, they do it in a historical comedy, not a historical tragedy. And this why you are set free in your approach to trenchant cultural criticism. In the long run, stupidity never works …

And last. None of this is offered as a strident defense of any detailed system. Gary North once helpfully distinguished the only two real eschatologies — pessimillennialism and optimillenialism. I am the later, of course, because postmillennialists have to be, by definition. Most premills and most amills happen to be pessimistic about the course of human history, but while this is the prevailing sentiment, it is not logically necessary. There are optimillennialists who are amill, and there are also some who are premill. Take Spurgeon, for example. He was thoroughly premill, but an optimillennialist nonetheless.

So, speaking as an optimillennialist, I look forward to the time when advocates of the other systems keep their systems, but join us in our joy.”

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