Ask the Pastor; “Can postmillennialists be pessimists — even in the short run?”

Dear Pastor,

Can postmillennialists be pessimists? To be more precise can we expect positive change in our time, or is all the “good stuff” still future?

John Hogue

 Dear John,

Thanks for writing.

I guess I would start answering by saying it depends on how you are defining pessimistic.


I think some postmillennialists get accused of being pessimistic when in point of fact they are merely connecting the dots on the cultural landscape. If a Postmillennialist sees that one of the sovereign spheres in a culture is operating on a foundation of paganism/humanism then they are obliged to insist that no good is going to come in operating according to idols set apart for destruction. And by doing so they are operating according to a postmillennial motif in that they see that before godly altars can be constructed that will be Christ honoring the previous idols must be destroyed.
Also, postmillennialists must be honest with the times they are given. They must not become pollyanna and thus condone wickedness by transmogrifying wickedness into something that is a harbinger that portends blessings. For example, I have seen certain postmillennialists encourage Christian to vote for wicked Republicans and then turn around and call other postmillennialists pessimists because they drew attention to the reality that the Kingdom isn’t advanced by supporting wickedness.

Keith Mathison (author of a couple books on Postmillennialism) once wrote that he was the most pessimistic postmillennialist that anyone would ever meet. By that, I think he meant that while he believed God’s Kingdom would conquer all he wasn’t going to excuse sin by being wrongly optimistic.

As far as your second question goes, I would say  I / we can expect positive change in our time as God sovereignly awakens men to their rebellion against Him and grants them repentance and a fleeing to Christ. We must work in terms of that hope and live in the expectation that it will come to pass.

We should be careful though that in our postmillennial that we don’t allow the hope to give birth to a false expectation. I have listened to many postmillennial sermons/lecture from the 70’s and 8o’s that were predicting, for example, the end of public schools by the year 2000, or vast revival among the minority community just around the corner. Today, I’ve heard young millennials forecast the change of everything in their lifetime by means of pursuing just the right political activism. One can only crack up laughing when listening to these postmillennialists of 30 and 40 years ago and of today. You see, John, what happened is that they allowed their high millennial expectations to impinge upon their ability to be realistic about the cultural landscape.
We can be optimistic about the future but it is optimism within God’s providence and God’s providence is operative not only in the future but is operative right now. God’s providence right now informs us that any imagined flowering of the already present postmillennial kingdom will require many uphill challenges that will require work.

We would do well, on this subject to remember the words of Gen. Robert E. Lee,

“The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”

The other side of this equation is that if we are unrealistically optimistic (Pollyanna) then the result will be vast discouragement when that which we so hoped for doesn’t come to pass.

So, what we have noted here is an unrealistic optimism for the future can lead to one of two mistaken reactions,

1.) Because we so desperately hope for the flowering of the already present postmillennial kingdom we begin to interpret that which is opposed to God’s work as part of God’s work in order to sustain our misplaced expectations and hope.

2.) Because we so desperately hope for the flowering of the already present postmillennial kingdom we begin to despair when we begin to realize that our expectations are not going to come to pass in our lifetimes.

As postmillennialists, we must continue to be hopeful in light of God’s sovereignty but we must also continue to accept the fact that God’s timing is His own.

As returning to your original question, I would say that it is not possible for a postmillennialist to be pessimistic, even in the short run. Our God is a great God and with God all things are possible. However, neither is it proper for a postmillennialist to be naive or Pollyanna.

To be honest, I have an easier time with C. S. Lewis’ Puddleglums, then I do with Susie Sunshines.

 


Author: jetbrane

I am a Pastor of a small Church in Mid-Michigan who delights in my family, my congregation and my calling. I am postmillennial in my eschatology. Paedo-Calvinist Covenantal in my Christianity Reformed in my Soteriology Presuppositional in my apologetics Kinist in my family theology Agrarian in my regional community social order belief Christianity creates culture and so Christendom in my national social order belief Mythic-Poetic / Grammatical Historical in my Hermeneutic Pre-modern, Medieval, & Feudal before Enlightenment, modernity, & postmodern Reconstructionist / Theonomic in my Worldview One part paleo-conservative / one part micro Libertarian in my politics Systematic and Biblical theology need one another but Systematics has pride of place Some of my favorite authors, Augustine, Turretin, Calvin, Tolkien, Chesterton, Nock, Tozer, Dabney, Bavinck, Wodehouse, Rushdoony, Bahnsen, Schaeffer, C. Van Til, H. Van Til, G. H. Clark, C. Dawson, H. Berman, R. Nash, C. G. Singer, R. Kipling, G. North, J. Edwards, S. Foote, F. Hayek, O. Guiness, J. Witte, M. Rothbard, Clyde Wilson, Mencken, Lasch, Postman, Gatto, T. Boston, Thomas Brooks, Terry Brooks, C. Hodge, J. Calhoun, Llyod-Jones, T. Sowell, A. McClaren, M. Muggeridge, C. F. H. Henry, F. Swarz, M. Henry, G. Marten, P. Schaff, T. S. Elliott, K. Van Hoozer, K. Gentry, etc. My passion is to write in such a way that the Lord Christ might be pleased. It is my hope that people will be challenged to reconsider what are considered the givens of the current culture . Your biggest help to me dear reader will be to often remind me that God is Sovereign and that all that is, is because it pleases him.

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