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A Life of Hope

March 1, 2009

creation-of-adam1

I recently bought a used book for $5 called “An Eschatology of Hope” by J. Marcellus Kik. It’s  a study of eschatology (end times stuff) – specifically the millenial reign – from a postmillenial perspective. I’ve been a postmillenialist for about 7 years now, so I didn’t need any convincing, but I bought it none the less. Boy, am I glad I did. It’s a wonderful read… very insightful and full of scripture. It also got me thinking again about the overwhelmingly popular and opposing view of premillenialism – specifically dispensationalism. My point here, though, is not to discuss the differences between the two views, but rather to approach it from another direction.

One of the most frustrating things to me is contemporary Christian culture – in the sense that Christianity (at least in the West) has created it’s own huge world complete with architecture, music, art, film, literature, apparel, etc… The frustrating part is that most of it is poor. Very poor. Embarrassingly poor. Especially compared to secular culture. Why is this? I admit, I’ve been stumped, but I may now have an answer… well, at least a partial one: Dispensationalism.

Without going into too much detail, dispensationalism takes the position that all the Christians are going to be raptured to heaven… soon. The world is a bad place, and it’s getting worse. And if you think it’s bad now, wait till the Antichrist comes. Needless to say, it’s not a very hopeful view of things to come, unless your hope is solely of the spiritual kind. I believe this belief has greatly influenced Christianity, thereby creating the “Christian culture” we have today.

First of all, let me say that it’s a shame that we have a “Christian culture” – in the sense that it is separatist from pop culture. At one time there was such a thing as a Christian culture that was also pop culture. Christians were the usually the best at everything: art, literature, music, poetry, math, business, marketing, architecture, farming, etc… They set the standard for what was great. Truth is Beauty and it showed. Part of their truth, though, was the belief that they were to be stewards of the world, taking part in the renewing of creation, striving for heaven on earth. After all, that is what God promises. They believed that as they created beautiful things, more people would be drawn to that beauty, that the good news would be spread, Christianity would grow, and the nations would be blessed. They had no concept of a rapture, of leaving the corrupt earth behind to live forever in heaven.

Alas, things have changed. And the majority of Christians believe differently. As Frankenstein would say, “Earth bad. Heaven good.” And we’ve created a monster… a hideous monster that is killing the creator. We no longer make art that lasts, because, well, what’s the point? Why should we make music that transcends generations – as Bach did – when we need to be about the business of making songs that bring about conversion? Why should we build beautiful structures that reflect our creativeness when what we really need are big boxes that can hold lots of people? Why should we encourage our youth to work hard at math, geography, and history and become valuable leaders in the community when what we really need are more pastors, professional youth leaders, worship leaders, and associate pastors?* But this is what dispensationalism does – it completely changes the churches priorities. There is no need for greatness, because there is no time for it. Who cares if you are the next Milton – we don’t need another Paradise Lost, we need more tracts. The gospel used to be shared in cathedrals, symphonies, literature, and sculpture. Now it’s shared on our t-shirts and direct to dvd movies.

It’s one thing to say “we need to be great” and it’s another thing to do it. It’s hard. Francis Schaeffer was mildly successful at it, and there’s been a few others. But there’s a big difference between tacking “the arts are important” onto the end of your theology and actually living it out daily. I’m sure there are many ways to do this, but for the purposes of this post, I have one suggestion: Let’s get our theology right!!!

*Now, don’t get me wrong. There is definately a place, and a need, for ministers. It just seems to me that when a young person shows an aptitude for theology, a joy of reading the Bible, and a desire to serve his church, the automatic assumption is to send him to Bible school.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 2, 2009 12:45 pm

    Hey, man. I was looking for ways to disagree with you on this (early prohibitionists were not just the fundamentalists; some were “postmillennialists” too).

    I guess I’d say rather that dispensationalism certainly fans this flame, but the real crux seems to be the second-degree separationist, revivalistic (think: Finney and the 2nd great awakening) and individualistic mentalities of the more modern “fundamentalists” (read: most evangelicals). It’s a dualism most insidious, because it deems creation evil while maintaining that their version of the church is the most pure.

  2. March 2, 2009 5:57 pm

    Yeah, there’s probably a number of reasons, but this one was on my mind mostly because of the book… by the way, have you read it? I was probably generalizing too much… there are certainly some dispy’s who don’t act that way. But the separatists don’t have an excuse either. Look at the Amish…. they make beautiful kitchen tables.

  3. March 11, 2009 7:01 am

    No, I haven’t read Kik. Having an in-house post-millennialist like we do pretty much keeps me satisfied on that score. Incidentally, his new book, From Age to Age, just came out.

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