domingo, 22 de julho de 2012


by Dennis M. Swanson,
Director of Academic Assessment, The Master's College

Presented at the Far-West Region of the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting,
April 22, 1994
Since the early 1960's a theological-political-social movement known as "Christian Reconstructionism," "Dominion Theology," or simply "Theonomy;" has been developing and growing. This growth has been both in numbers and in influence within mainstream Christianity. Evangelical Christians of all persuasions have viewed this movement with a good deal of suspicion and anxiety. As Robert Lightner states, "Theonomy is a growing concern in both covenant and dispensational circles." Under the leadership of three individuals: R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, and Greg Bahnsen, who are universally recognized as the founders of the movement, Theonomy has been almost revolutionary in both the interpretation and application of Scripture, particularly the Old Testament. Commenting on the overall impact of Theonomy, William S. Barker states,
...this school of thought has produced a vast amount of literature, influenced the Christian-school movement, affected many churches, and stimulated some previously quietistic evangelicals to political reform. Having begun in Reformed or Calvinistic circles, theonomy has in the last decade proved attractive to a wider group of American evangelicals and fundamentalists, including some charismatics. At the same time several of the earlier spokesmen for theonomy have fallen into different camps with the result that it is difficult to describe theonomy or Christian reconstruction as a single movement.
In his evaluation, R. R. Clapp characterizes Theonomy as, "intent on reconstructing society along lines expectedly set forth in the Old Testament law." In relation to Postmillennial eschatology, the leaders of this system (which for clarity's sake we will henceforth refer to as "Theonomy" ) often assert that they are simply carrying on the "Princeton Tradition;" following the likes of Charles & A. A. Hodge, B. B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen. Commenting on this assertion Gary North states:
As a postmillennialist of the Princeton Seminary variety he [J. Gresham Machen] believed in a coming discontinuity, a burst of new power. In a 1925 essay, "Faith and Knowledge" he had made a very similar statement; indeed. . . He announced: "A revival of the Christian religion, we believe will deliver mankind from its present bondage, and like the great re-vival of the sixteenth century will bring liberty to mankind." Sadly, he failed to articulate his postmillennial eschatology or defend it exegetically, and his successors at Westminister abandoned it. The amillennialism of Dutch Calvinism soon triumphed at Westminster. His academic and ecclesiastical successors have no faith in the burst of new power that he dreamed of. In this sense, it is the Christian Reconstruction movement that is the spiritual heir of Machen.
North is correct in his assertion that amillennial eschatology is now the official position at Westminster Theological Seminary. Westminister was founded in 1929 by Machen, when he was "stymied in his efforts to maintain the old theology of Princeton." Of the three identified tenets of Theonomy, this paper is strictly concerned with the Theonomic concept of Postmillennialism. Specifically this paper will address the question:

Is the postmillennialism, as espoused by Theonomists, really the "spiritual heir" of either Machen or the Princeton Tradition; or is it a new creation with both a system and an agenda foreign to classic Princeton Theology?

The Theonomist apologists make constant attempts to forge a historical connection between themselves and the Princeton Theologians and others in the Reformed tradition. Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart, in their book The Reduction of Christianity, state in a footnote:
Postmillennialism has been taught by Loraine Boettner, Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, B. B. Warfield, Marcellus Kik, John Jefferson Davis, Roderick Campbell, John Murray (in his commentary on Romans, chapter 11) as well as "reconstructionist" writers such as R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, Greg Bahnsen, James B. Jordan, and David Chilton. You can also find strains of postmillennialism in the writings of the great English Baptist preacher of the 19th century, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
This paper has as its purpose to evaluate the postmillennial eschatology of the Theonomists as compared to the postmillennial eschatology as described and defended by the Princetonians, particularly the great systematizer of the Princeton Theology, Charles Hodge. In doing so we will demonstrate that Theonomic Postmillennialism is really, as Thomas Ice it, "neopostmillennialism." Neopostmillennialism is new not only in its revitalization, but new in terms of its definition. Therefore any claim that Theonomic Postmillennialism is carrying on the tradition of Princeton Theology must be rejected as spurious.


Charles Hodge (1797-1878) produced his magnum opus, Systematic Theology, in 1871; his son A. A. Hodge (1823-1886) produced his Outlines of Theology in 1860 (revised into its present form in 1878). The younger Hodge's work was not, by his own ad-mission, "a complete treatise on systematic theology, for the use of the proficient, but as a simple Text Book." So complete was the elder Hodge's Systematic Theology, however, that it was the standard text at Princeton right up to the end of that tradition. B. B. Warfield is reported to have said that he never would attempt to write a Systematic Theology to supersede Hodge's, because, "there was no need." Commenting on Warfield's admiration for Hodge's work Bamberg states:

Finally, perhaps the most important reason [that Warfield never produced a systematic theology] was Warfield's reverence for Hodge's achievement. Hodge had stated, explained and then defended the Princeton tradition thoroughly. Warfield saw his task as defending, updating and extending Hodge's treatment. "Forty and six years was this temple in build-ing" [referring to Hodge's Systematic Theology], and Dr. Warfield was not the man to turn the key in the door of that temple and leave it to the moles and bats.

To this day Hodge's Systematic Theology remains in print and in demand.

Charles Hodge has been called, "the most prominent American Presbyterian theologian of the nineteenth century" and was clearly one of the most outstanding theologians that America has ever produced. Mark Noll presents this evaluation of Hodge's contributions:

[Archibald] Alexander's student Charles Hodge (1797-1878) extended this theological viewpoint into a powerful system of thought during his fifty-six years as a Princeton professor. Hodge used the same sources that Alexander had employed to defend the glory of God (instead of the happiness of humanity) as the purpose of life, to affirm the power of the Holy Spirit in salvation (against views of human self-determination), and to champion the Scriptures as the proper fount of theology (against either human religious experience or the dictates of formal reason). Hodge once remarked proudly that there had never been a new idea at Princeton, by which he meant that Princeton intended to pass on Reformed faith as it had been defined in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

That Hodge's Systematic Theology was able to replace François Turretin's (1623-87) classic Institutio Theologiae Elencticae , speaks of its importance and substance. As the definitive statement of the Princeton Theology it became "the criterion of Reformed orthodoxy in America." In the presentation of Princeton's view of eschatology, as in all other areas of systematics, Charles Hodge gave the final word. Part One: 19th Century American Postmillenialism

For the most part, eschatology was not a "front burner" issue in 19th century America. That is, it was generally assumed rather than debated. Building on the work of Daniel Whitby (1638-1726), Postmillenialism had been accepted by the majority of the later English and American Puritans, including most importantly, Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). Postmillenialism is described by Clouse as:

The belief that the return of Christ will take place after the millennium, which may be a lit-eral period of peace and prosperity or else a symbolic representation of the final triumph of the gospel. This new age will come through Christian teaching and preaching. The Holy Spirit will use such activity to shape a new world characterized by peace, prosperity and righteousness. Evil will not be eliminated, but it will be reduced to a minimum because the moral and spiritual influence of the church will be greatly increased. During the new age Christians will solve many of humankind's most persistent social, economic and educa-tional problems. The millennium will not necessarily be limited to 1,000 years because the number can be used symbolically. The period closes with the Second Coming of Christ, the resurrection of the dead and the last judgment.

Postmillennial eschatology continued dominant in Colonial America into the Nineteenth Century. Jack Davis points out correctly that it was, "the dominant evangelical view." By dominant it must be remembered that postmillennialism was not the exclusive view of the era. The Millerite and Adventist movements of the early ante-bellum era, the revitalization of a more traditional premillennialism, the importation of Dispensationalism by the Plymouth Brethren from England, and the influence of D. L. Moody and C. I. Scofield in the later part of the cen-tury, were certainly important trends. However, postmillennial thought held the day, mainly be-cause, "the great Princeton school of theology of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, represented by Hodge and Benjamin B. Warfield, staunchly presented this system."

Besides the theological defense, postmillennialism also fit well with the optimistic view Americans generally had of themselves and their country. This optimism was so prevalent that even the Civil War could be seen as a "true Apocalyptic contest" in which the final Satanic in-fluence in America (slavery), was abolished, so that the work of worldwide conversion to Christianity, lead by the United States, could begin. Thus, postmillennialism was the popular evangelical expression of eschatology in America. Commenting on this George Marsden states: Postmillennialists typically were optimistic about the spiritual progress of the culture. They saw human history as reflecting an ongoing struggle between cosmic forces of God and Satan, each well represented by various earthly powers, but with the victory of the righ-teous ensured. In the early nineteenth century many American postmillennialists believed the defeat of the Satanic forces to be imminent. With the Papal and Islamic powers in an apparent state of decline, the more literal-minded concluded that the twelve hundred and sixty days (years) of the reign of anti-Christ (Revelation 11) would end around the 1860's. In any case American evangelical postmillennialists saw signs of the approach of the mil-lennial age not only in the success of revivals and missions, but also in general cultural progress. The golden age would see the culmination of current reform efforts to end slav-ery, oppression and war. Moreover, in this wonderful era science, technology, and learn-ing would advance to undreamed of accomplishments. It becomes clear that the optimism of 19th century postmillennialism was based on the procla-mation and effectiveness of the gospel. This optimistic attitude had begun during the Great Awakening in America when Jonathan Edwards stated:

That the Spirit of God has been of late so wonderfully striving with such multitudes, in so many parts of the world and even to this day in one place or another continues to awaken men, is what I should take encouragement from, that God was about to do something more glorious, and would, before he finishes, bring to a greater ripeness, and not finally suffer this work to be frustrated and rendered abortive by Satan's crafty management. And may we not hope that these unusual commotions are the forerunners of something exceedingly glorious.

Edwards, who has been called "America's Greatest Theologian," was a leader in the Great Awakening with both his preaching and writing. His biographer, Iain H. Murray, states re-garding Edwards and the Great Awakening:

Edwards does not counter this [his private view that perhaps the kingdom as envisioned in the postmillennial system was beginning] with other conjectures but rather urges that in-stead of expecting things to happen with 'one great stroke' we should expect a more grad-ual process. The overthrow of unbelief in Christendom, the conversion of the Jews, and the full enlightenment of all Mahomedan and heathen nations, will not, he asserts, be accomplished in 'one great conflict.' Rather such things will come to pass in answer to prayer, through successive revivals -a succession of which the Awakening of 1740 played its own notable part.

This was the religious and cultural setting of, Charles Hodge and the Princeton Theologians found themselves. Certainly Hodge was a man of his own time and as such he was influenced by his culture. The culture of the United States during Hodge's lifetime was certainly a place where optimism was to be found. The Puritan concept of America as "the light on the hill" did not die out with Puritanism, but was redefined as "manifest destiny." The idea that it was God's purpose for the United States to not only control the North American continent but to settle it from "pole to pole." The role God intended for the nation, according to this view, was to spread the gospel across the world. This mentality even reached to the presidency when William McKinley (1843-1901, president from 1896-1901) stated that the oc-cupation of territory after the Spanish-American War was required because the national mission of the United States was "to include the awesome assignment of carrying Christianity and democracy to the benighted peoples in the uncivilized quarters of the world."

Part Two: The Foundations of Hodge's Postmillennialism

In this kind of society the optimism displayed in Hodge and his postmillennialism is not difficult to understand. However, it was not simply a cultural matter with Hodge, he firmly believed that the postmillennial scheme was the one taught by the Scriptures. In developing his postmillennial view he was forced to make a marked departure from the theology textbook on which he had been raised, and that he himself continued to re-quire of his students until his own Systematic Theology was produced, Turretin's Institutio Theologiae Elencticae.

Although Hodge boasted that "nothing new ever originated at Princeton" in the field of eschatology that was not entirely true. François Turretin's Institutio Theologiae Elencticae which was used as the theology text for nearly 40 years at Princeton, and which Hodge in his own work, "sought faithfully to transmit. . . to latter-day Calvinists in the post-Enlightenment, evangelical American religious world of the mid-nineteenth century," did not advocate postmillennialism. Turretin was amillennial in his eschatology, having been described as "more of a gloomy amillennialist." Turretin was convinced that the true believers were to be a small and frequently assailed lot; thus he "cultivated an inner piety and the hope that Christ would soon return to deliver His people from all their miseries." However this type of pes-simism was unknown to Hodge, and so, "one of the most striking turnabouts --illustrative of the radically different theological worlds or Turretin and Hodge-- occurs in Princeton's (and Hodge's) departure from Turretin's eschatological pessimism."

Hodge's optimism was built on his view that the gospel is "the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:18). "This verse contains the reason why Christ sent the Apostle to preach, and why he preached the doctrine of the cross, and not human wisdom. That reason is, because the doctrine of the cross alone is effectual for salvation." Hodge believed that as the Gospel was preached on a wider and wider scale the more effective it would be as God used it to the salvation of souls. In this respect he echoed his friend and contemporary in England, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said:

To try to win a soul for Christ by keeping that soul in ignorance of any truth, is contrary to the mind of the Spirit; and to endeavor to save men by mere claptrap, or excitement, or ora-torical display, is as foolish as to hope to hold an angel with bird-lime, or lure a star with music. The best attraction is the gospel in its purity. The weapon with which the Lord conquers men is the truth as it is in Jesus. The gospel will be found equal to every emer-gency; an arrow which can pierce the hardest heart, a balm which will heal the deadliest wound. Preach it, and preach nothing else.

To this Hodge would heartily agree, as this statement shows:

The command of Christ to his Church was to preach the gospel to every creature. Not to the irrational creatures, and not to fallen angels; these two classes are excluded by the na-ture and design of the gospel. Further than this there is no limitation, so far as the present state of existence is concerned. We are commanded to make the offer of salvation through Jesus to every human being on the face of the earth. We have no right to exclude any man; and no man has the right to exclude himself.

This fact is vital in understanding Hodge's view of eschatology. He viewed the gospel as being ultimately successful in bringing about the conversion of the majority of mankind. In fact he seemed to view his generation as the best suited for the great task of world evangelism, as he stated:

The wonderful success of the work of missions in our day goes to prove the fact contended for [that is the universal proclamation of the gospel and the fruition of its success]. Barriers deemed insurmountable have been removed; hundreds of missionary stations have been established in every part of the world; many thousands of converts have been gathered into churches and hundreds of thousands of children are under Christian instruction; the foundations of idolatry have been undermined; nations lately heathen have become Christian, and are taking part in sending the gospel to those still in darkness; and nothing seems wanting to secure the gathering in of the gentiles, but a revival of the missionary spirit of the apostolic age in the churches of the nineteenth century. [emphasis mine]

This zeal for evangelism and missions was a distinctive mark of Princeton Theology and especially their eschatology. Kennedy states:

Missionary enthusiasm and postmillennial optimism go hand in hand with Hodge. In general, he is quite circumspect in matters eschatological, but he waxes dogmatic in championing postmillennialism (he does not use the word) against premillennialism. Hodge is also stronger than Turretin in condemning chiliasm. The reason for this may be partly that premillennialism was more extreme and more popular in Hodge's day, and partly that Turretin and the premillennialists shared a pessimism regarding earthly society unknown to the optimistic Hodge.

Again, Hodge's optimism was in God and His power in the gospel alone, not in any man-made psychological manipulation or marketing contrivance. Commenting on the phrase duvami" Qeou' (power of God) in Romans 1:16, Hodge states: Most commonly Qeou' is taken as a genitive of the Author, and the power of God is made to mean power derived from God. There are two things asserted by the gospel, first it is powerful, and secondly that it is from God. . . The nature of the salvation here intended is to be learned from the nature of the gospel. It is deliverance from sin and its punishment, and admission into eternal life and blessedness. This is what no mean's of man's devising, no efforts of human wisdom or human power could effect for any human being.

Although accepting the vast majority of the Calvinistic system of Turretin, Charles Hodge rejected the pessimism of his amillennial eschatology for the optimism of his own postmillennial scheme. While some of the difference between the views of the two can be traced to their respective circumstances, it was the theology of Hodge and his exhaustive study of the Scripture which drove him to his eschatological views.

Part Three: The Systemization of Hodge's Postmillennialism

The postmillennialism of Charles Hodge is easily seen in his Systematic Theology. He laid out his outline of the end times as follows:

The common church doctrine is, first that there is to be a second personal, visible, and glorious advent of the Son of God. Secondly, that the events which are to proceed that advent are:

1. The universal diffusion of the Gospel; or, as our Lord expresses it, the ingathering of the elect; this is the vocation of the Christian Church.
2. The conversion of the Jews, which is to be national. As their casting away was national, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion may be national, although some may remain obdurate.
3. The coming of Antichrist.

Thirdly, that the events which are to attend to the second advent are:
1. The resurrection of the dead, of the just and the unjust.
2. The general judgment.
3. The end of the world. And,
4. The consummation of Christ's kingdom.

In this part of our discussion we want to briefly examine Hodge's postmillennial outline as well as how he viewed its accomplishment to be brought about.

Section One: The Universal Diffusion of the Gospel

Foundational to Hodge's postmillennial scheme, as we have already shown, was his belief in the ultimate success of the gospel. He called this the "universal diffusion," or more specifically, "the ingathering of the elect." He called it "the first great event which is to precede the second coming of Christ." Here Hodge begins by a demonstration of the requirement for worldwide proclamation of the gospel in Old Testament predictions. In the Systematic Theology he quotes Hosea 2:23 ("...and they shall say, Thou art my God.") and Isaiah 45:23 ("...that unto me every knee show bow and every tongue shall swear.") in support of his thesis. He summarizes his position as follows:

That is, [commenting on Isaiah 45:23] the true religion shall prevail over the whole earth. Jehovah shall everywhere be recognized and worshipped as the only true God. It is to be remembered that these and many other passages of like import are quoted and applied by the Apostle to the Gospel dispensation.

Hodge believed that this "ingathering of the elect" was to precede the national conversion of the Jews. "In Romans xi. 25, Paul teaches that the national conversion of the Jews is not to take place 'until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.' The plhvrwma tw'n ejqnw'n is that which makes the number of Gentiles full; the full complement which the Gentiles are to render to make the number of the elect complete." Hodge readily admits that he is uncertain as to the exact timing of this , other than the fact that in the eternal counsels of God there is a determined number of elect Gentiles, who upon being saved, brings about the a[cri" ou, which Hodge states, "marks the terminus ad quem." After this point the national conversion of the Jews will take place. However, even with this Hodge states that God is not yet finished with the Gentiles.

All that can be safely inferred from this language is, that the Gentiles, as a body, the mass of the Gentile world, will be converted before the restoration of the Jews, as a nation. Much will remain to be accomplished after that event; and in the accomplishment of what shall remain to be done, the Jews are to have a prominent agency. As we have already noted Hodge believed that the church in his day was both ready and equipped, under God's providence and power, to bring the task of worldwide proclamation to a climax.

It is only within the last fifty years that the church has been brought to feel that its great duty is the conversion of the nations. More probably has been done in this direction dur-ing the last half century than during the preceding five hundred years. It is to be hoped that a new effusion of the Spirit like that of the Day of Pentecost may be granted to the Church whose fruits shall far exceed those of the first effusion as the millions of Christians now alive exceed in number the one hundred and twenty souls then gathered in Jerusalem.

Hodge felt that in the work of Gentile conversion the church, and the church alone was the immediate agency, used by God, for the spreading of the gospel. "That the conversion of the Gentile world is the work assigned to the church under the present dispensation, and that it is not to fold its hands and await the second coming of Christ to accomplish that work for it, seems evident from what has already been said." Hodge went on to say, "There is no intimation in the New Testament that the work of converting the world is to be effected by any other means than those now in use. It is to dishonour the gospel, and the power of the Holy Spirit, to suppose that they are inadequate to the accomplishment of this work."

The means by which the world was to be converted was the message of the gospel. That message was to have progressively increasing success as the church again recaptured the zeal of the apostles and the early church. Since God has, "furnished it with all the means nec-essary for its accomplishment; He revealed the truth which is the power of God unto salvation; He instituted the ministry to be perpetuated to the end of the world, and promised to endow men from age to age with the gifts and graces necessary for the discharge of its duties, and to grant them constant presence and assistance."

Section Two: The National Conversion of the Jews

Once the "ingathering of the elect" was complete Hodge taught that "the second great event, which according to the common faith of the Church, is to precede the second advent of Christ is the national conversion of the Jews." To Hodge the national conversion of the Jews is so thoroughly taught in the Scriptures that it was not gainsayable. Despite the Jews rejection of Christ as their Messiah, God is still not through dealing with them.

Joel and Zechariah predicted that for their rejection of the Messiah, they should be scattered to the ends of the earth, but that God would bring them back, and that his favour should be finally withdrawn from them. Thus it is with all the prophets. As these general predictions are familiar to all the readers of the Bible, they need not be specified.

In formulating this conclusion Hodge stated that "the most decisive passage" was Romans 11. He called this passage the "instar omnium" of all Scripture pertaining to this subject. In Romans 11, Hodge identifies four points which demonstrate that there was to be a national conversion of the Jews: (1) Because the nation, "represented by the Sanhedrim, the High Priest, the scribes and the Pharisees, by their rulers of every class, and by the popular voice," rejected Christ as their Messiah, God also rejected them; (2) The rejection was not entire, since there would be individual Jews who would believe in Christ during what Hodge called the "Gospel dispensation;" (3) The national rejection is not entire, nor is it final, because "the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable" (Romans 11:29); (4) Finally all Israel shall be saved, although as we have already seen Hodge believed, "As their casting away was na-tional, although a remnant was saved; so their conversion may be national, although some may remain obdurate." Commenting on Romans 11:26, (And so all Israel shall be saved) Hodge stated this:

Israel here, from the context, must mean the Jewish people, and all Israel, the whole nation. The Jews as a people, are now rejected; as a people, they are to be restored. As their rejection, although national, did not include the rejection of every individual; so their restoration, in the like manner national, need not be assumed to include the salvation of ev-ery individual Jew. Pa'" jIsrhvl is not therefore to be understood to mean, all true people of God, as Augustin, Calvin, and many others explain it; nor all the elect Jews, i.e., all that part of the nation which constitute 'the remnant according to the election of grace;' but the whole nation as a nation.

In this matter Hodge admits the limitation of understanding the Old Testament prophecies when he states:

Prophecy is not proleptic history. It is not designed to give us the knowledge of the future which history gives us of the past. Great events are foretold; but the mode of their occur-rence, their details, and their consequences, can only be learned by the event. It is in the retrospect that the foreshadowing of the future is seen to be miraculous and divine.

Hodge did not believe that the "national conversion of the Jews" was national in the sense of the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land. For Hodge, national was understood to be racial. The Jews scattered all over the earth would come to faith in a spectacular and miraculous fash-ion, but it would not have anything to do with the Old Testament "land promises." Here Hodge states:

The argument from the ancient prophecies [about the restoration of Israel to the land] is proved to be invalid because it would prove too much. If those prophecies foretell a literal restoration, they foretell that the temple is to be rebuilt, the priesthood restored, sacrifices again offered, and that whole Mosaic ritual is to be observed in all its details.

All of these things Hodge rejects as being, "utterly inconsistent with the character of the Gospel that there should be a renewed inauguration of Judaism within the pale of the Christian Church." However, Hodge was forced by the weight of evidence, especially Romans 11, to acknowledge that prior to the second coming of Christ, "all Israel would be saved."

Section Three: The Coming of Antichrist

The final of Hodge's three events which are to "precede that advent" is the arrival of Antichrist. Like most Protestants of his age Hodge identified the Antichrist, not as a single individual but rather, "the papacy." For Hodge the papacy was the essence of the "Antichristian spirit". It would be primarily the apostate church (i.e., Roman Catholicism), with a large degree of secular power.

Antichrist, as thus portrayed, includes the ecclesiastical and a worldly element; an apostate church invested with imperial, worldly power. In the Apocalypse these two elements are represented as separate and united; a woman sitting on a beast with ten horns. The woman is the apostate church; the beast is the symbol of the world-power by which it is supported. The destruction of the one, therefore, does not involve the destruction of the other. According to the prediction in the eighteenth chapter, the kings of the earth, wearied with the arrogance and assumption of the apostate Church, shall turn against it, waste, and consume it; that is, despoil it of its external power and glory.

Hodge also felt that it would be the remaining unconverted Jews that would be the source of the tribulation before the return of Christ. "There will probably be enough remaining unchanged in heart [after the national conversion of Israel] to be the germ of the persecuting power which shall bring about those days of tribulation which the Bible seems to teach are to immediately precede the coming of Christ." Hodge summarizes the end time scheme as he concludes:

The great truth set forth in these prophecies is, that there was future in the time, not only of Daniel, but also of the Apostles, a great apostasy in the Church; that this apostasy would be antichristian (or Antichrist), allay itself with the world and become a great persecuting power; and that the two elements, the ecclesiastical and the worldly which enter into this great Antichristian development, will, sometimes the one, sometimes the other become more prominent; sometimes acting in harmony, sometimes opposed one to the other; and, therefore, sometimes spoken of as one, and sometimes two distinct powers. Both, as united or as separate, are to be overtaken with a final destruction when the Lord comes.

Hodge's eschatology can be visualized with the chart below:

The details of Hodge's eschatological scheme can be seen in the following categories:

Category Description

The Church Age or The time of proclamation of the gospel to the world. This "Gospel Dispensation" work will show increase in both success and scope. When the "fullness of Gentiles" has been accomplished, the national conversion of Israel will also occur.

The Millennial Age An extended period of gospel dominance. The world will be completely evangelized, and the vast majority of the world population will be Christians.

The Apostasy, Tribulation

The time at the end of the Millennial Age when & The Second Advent there will be a general "falling away" led by the combination of the apostate church (Rome) and worldly powers. The church will be greatly persecuted, but the Second Coming of Christ will occur and these Antichristian powers will be destroyed.

Charles Hodge presents the classic postmillennial scheme of Princeton Theology. His understanding of the advance of the gospel, the millennium, the apostasy and return of Christ have served as the foundation of postmillennial eschatology in evangelical circles.



As we have seen, postmillennialism was the dominant eschatological system in American evangelicalism from the time of the Puritans until the time of World War I. With the conclusion of World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the threat of atomic confrontation; postmillennialism, as a system, was thought to be dead or at least dying. In 1952 Charles L. Feinberg declared, "current events now make it impossible to hold to a postmillennial view, soon it will be aban-doned completely." Even in 1977 Millard Erickson stated, "Today postmillennialists are, if not an extinct species, at least an en-dangered species." Since the end of World War II the most vocal advocate of a classic postmillennial eschatology has been Loraine Boettner.

Not only world events, but theological trends were leading to the demise of postmillennialism. With the restructuring of Princeton in 1929, and the departure of J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) and others to begin the new Westminister Theological Seminary in the same year; changes were inevitable. Machen and the famous Old Testament scholar, Robert Dick Wilson (1856-1930) were both strongly postmillennial, after the traditional Princeton mode. However, premillennialism was also present in the new school, mainly in the person of Carl MacIntire (1903-). In addition there was the strongly amillennial teaching of Oswald T. Allis (1880-1973) and the more moderate amillennial stance of Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987). With the deaths of Wilson in 1930 and Machen in 1937; followed by the depar-ture of MacIntire in 1939 to form the Bible Presbyterian Church, the amillennial position became dominant at Westminster. Thus postmillennialism no longer had an effective platform in evangelicalism from which it could be taught and defended.

However with the advent of Theonomy, postmillennial eschatology has again become a viable force within evangelicalism. In this chapter we want to examine the basic tenets of Theonomic Postmillennialism, as it is detailed by its key leaders. One major item of understanding is that Theonomy is a rather amorphous system. Since its inception the system has been splintering rather dramatically. John Zens made the following observation about the key leaders of Theonomy:

. . .contemporary Reconstructionist writers cannot even get along with each other. Internal wrangling is rife in their ranks. Rushdoony and North do not speak to one another. Bahnsen does not view the Tyler, Texas group as a manifestation of the body of Christ. Rushdoony and Bahnsen are not on good terms. Chilton and others have moved away from Tyler as a result of disagreements with North. The Westminster Presbyterian Church in Tyler, led by Ray Sutton, has now become Episcopal, causing further friction.

In this section we want to briefly examine the background of the Theonomy movement and an examination of Theonomic Postmillennialism as presented by their own writers.

Part One: The Background of Theonomy

As already mentioned Theonomy has been developed by three key leaders: Rousas J. Rushdoony, Gary North and Greg Bahnsen. Rushdoony was born in New York in 1926. Educated on the west coast he has been active in missions to the Chinese in San Francisco and the Paiute Indians in the Southwest. He is ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He has pastored in several different locations, most recently in Vallecito, California. He is a prolific writer, authoring over 30 books. His most important work, and the foundation for the Theonomy movement was his Institutes of Biblical Law (Presbyterian & Reformed Press, 1973). This book postulates that the Old Testament Law, essentially in its entirety, is binding on all societies and it is the duty of Christians to put the law into place as the "law of the land."

The second figure in Theonomy is Gary North. North has his doctorate in economics and currently runs a Theonomist think-tank, The Institute for Christian Economics, in Tyler, Texas. North is estranged from many of the other Theonomist leaders, including his father-in-law, Rushdoony, and Bahnsen, whose books North will no longer publish. Currently North, is busy about the task of "destroying dispensationalism." He has stated, "I decided in 1984 that I would like to be known in Church history as the man who financed the intellectual demise of dispenasationalism in its time of greatest crisis."

Greg Bahnsen has been called "one of the movement's brightest thinkers." Bahnsen currently pastors in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in California and is dean of a graduate school. Next to Rushdoony's Institutes in importance is Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics (Presbyterian & Reformed Publishers, 1977). He published this work while on the faculty of Reformed Seminary in Jacksonville; however the reaction to the book was such that he was dismissed from the faculty as a result of his doctrinal views as expressed in that book.

The initial commonalty of the Theonomists has been their roots in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. This denomination is the result of the defrocking of Machen in 1935 over the establishment of the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions. Machen was the driving force in the creation of this new denomination, which he proclaimed was a "true Presbyterian church at last." Just as Westminister Theological Seminary was envi-sioned as carrying on the tradition of "Old Princeton", so was this new denomination viewed as the continuation of Biblical Presbyterianism. Theonomists, in the area of eschatology, see themselves as simply carrying on the Princeton tradition. DeMar and Leithart develop this con-nection at length as they state:

Eschatological optimism [i.e., postmillennialism] never died out completely. In fact, we can trace a clear line from the late 19th century postmillennialists to the present day. B. B. Warfield, who taught at Princeton until his death in 1921 was a postmillennialist. The founder of Westminster Theological Seminary, J. Gresham Machen, studied at Princeton under Warfield. Westminster was founded in 1929 and Machen taught there until his death in 1937. John Murray, professor of systematic theology at Westminster from 1930-1966, was, at least late in life, something of a postmillennialist. Outside of the immediate Westminster community, there were also a few postmillennial writers. Roderick Campbell's Israel and the New Covenant was published in 1954, and the introduction by Westminister Seminary professor O. T. Allis made clear his own postmillennial convictions. Lorraine Boettner studied at Princeton in the late 1920's, and his postmillennial book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination was published in 1932, while his more extended postmillennial study The Millennium was first published in 1957. Westminister and Princeton graduate J. Marcellus Kik, a member of the editorial staff for Christianity Today, delivered his postmillennial lectures on Matthew 24 and Revelation 20 at Westminister Seminary in 1961. Kik dedicated one of his books to Roderick Campbell. Thus, the postmillennialism of the Princeton Theology was maintained at Westminster and elsewhere, though admittedly as a minority position.

In concluding the historical connections they wish to develop, they continue:

We have seen that the major view of American Christianity in the 19th century was that the kingdom of God would progressively triumph on earth. This hope was shattered in the early 20th century by a series of theological and social movements that splintered the "kingdom theology" that had already been weakened by revivalism, nationalism, secularism, and sentimentalism. The long range optimism of "reconstructionists," therefore, is no recent development in this country. Instead, it is the pessimistic view of the future that is a relative newcomer on the American theological scene.

That the Theonomists identify with the classic postmillennial thought of Princeton is not strange, and in the expression of the schema of postmillennialism, they are more or less in complete agreement with Hodge, Warfield, et al. However, in the opus operatum of their postmillennialism their is a distinct departure from the Princeton Theology.

Part Two: The Outworking of Theonomic Postmillennialism

That Theonomists teach postmillennialism in essentially the same manner as appeared in Princeton Theology, i.e., the growing influence and dominance of the Church, and long period of a "Golden Age" for Christianity followed by the return of Christ, cannot be denied. The discussions in Chapter One of this paper detail the postmillennial schedule of Hodge, which the majority of Theonomists would accept as a timeline. However, the manner in which the church is to advance and be ultimately successful is another matter. For the Theonomist the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is interpreted to mean not just the salvation of individuals, but also the salvation of the social structures of society. One Theonomist writes:

Personal redemption is not the do-all and end-all of the Great Commission. Thus, our evangelism must include sociology as well as salvation; it must include reform and re-demption, culture and conversion, a new social order as well as a new birth, a revolution as well as a regeneration. Any other kind of evangelism is short-sighted and woefully impotent. Any other kind of evangelism fails to live up to the high call of the Great Commission.

Gary North states:

The assignment by Christ [i.e., The Great Commission] is simply a recapitulation of the dominion assignment given to Adam and Noah by God. It is the same assignment. Now Christ announces His power over history, for He has suffered in history: "And Jesus came and spoke unto them saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18). This is the historical foundation for the original dominion assignment.

Theonomists clearly have an activist approach to the Great Commission bordering on militancy. David Chilton has stated, "The kingdoms of the world are to become the kingdoms of Christ. They are to be discipled, made obedient to the faith" [emphasis mine]. The Theonomist agenda for redeeming the culture is not to simply have more and more Christians in positions of societal authority, thus bringing a godly influence into the world. This means of "cultural redemption" is viewed as passive and ineffective. Ray Sutton, a leading Theonomist, writes:

Many sound Christians have exercised influence there [i.e., the political and social arena]. They have held political office. But more often than not they have not ruled by the Bible, particularly God's law. Rather, men such as Abraham Kuyper believed in the rule of natu-ral law, even though he implemented some fine Christian legislation. So, after Kuyper the present age of decadence began. Why? Because the Bible and God's law were not set up as the rule. Christians ruled, in other words, but they did not establish Christian rule, namely under God's Law.

This view is in direct conflict with the Postmillennial thought of Princeton. Loraine Boettner presents that view more correctly when he describes the nature of the millennium he envisions, The postmillennialist looks for a golden age that will not be essentially different from our own so far as the basic facts of life are concerned. This age gradually merges into the millennial age as an increasing proportion of the world's inhabitants are converted to Christianity. Marriage and home will continue and new members will enter the human race through the natural process of birth, as at present. Sin will not be eliminated but will be re-duced to a minimum as the moral and spiritual environment of the earth becomes predominately Christian. Social, economic and educational problems will remain but with their unpleasant features greatly eliminated and their desirable effects heightened. Christian principles and beliefs will become the accepted standard.

The means of fulfilling the Theonomist "Great Commission" are laid out most clearly by Rushdoony. He states that the mission and purpose of the church is found in I Corinthians 6:2, as he explains:

Some, because of the reference to angels in verse 3, refer this judging to the world to come, but its true meaning is with reference to time and eternity. The word "judge" here has the Old Testament sense to govern, Moffat translates it as manage. Manage does convey the meaning of a continuing government by the saints over the Kingdom of God in time and eternity.

Building on this theme of management, Rushdoony presents the practical means of implementing his system as he states:

The goal of the elders and their teaching was thus to create a community of responsible believers, responsible for themselves and their household and for their fellow believers. But this is not all. Because the saints were called to manage or govern the world, very quickly it became their purpose to move into positions of power and authority. The letters of Saint Paul show clearly that prominent Romans were converted. The salutations include "those who are of Caesar's household" (Phil. 4:22). In the Puritan era, the pressure of the saints on every kind of office in church, state and commerce was very extensive.

For Rushdoony the vehicle by which Christians obtain "power and authority" is through the office of elder. The Theonomist view of eldership stretches far beyond the normally under-stood bounds of the church office as Rushdoony states:

The church calls and ordains her elders, but there is little reason to limit the office to the church. Christians in education, civil government, the sciences, law and other professions can constitute themselves as Christian bodies and examine and ordain men who will further the law and rule of God in their sphere.

He makes the Jewish concept of elder continuous with the New Testament office. Regarding this he states, "Thus, very clearly, law and order were basic functions of the elder but in far more than just a police sense, in that it was the duty of the elder to train his charges into a way of life." The reason for this expansive role for the elder was because "one of the consequences of existing in a hostile world was that the church had to assume the function of a total society for its members." In Rushdoony's scheme the elder should be a person who, in his secular employ-ment, and with other "elders" in the same field, seek to gain control or at least exert influence of that profession for Christ and the Church. Rushdoony views every profession as a potential "Christian Body," where elders function in a roll of "examination and ordination" new elders within the organization.

This is a pivotal feature of the Theonomist system, and in fact the Millennium will have no means of coming into being until "every legitimate calling is seen as an area of potential eldership and is brought under the rule of God's law-word by presbyters or elders serving God will the meaning of eldership be fully realized." Even a cursory knowledge of the New Testament is enough to understand that this scheme is unknown to the writers of Scripture. In fact it is fascinating to see that the model Rushdoony utilizes to demonstrate how his principles will work is not from any Biblical example or paradigm; but rather, the plan and program of the John Birch Society!

Part Three: An Evaluation of Theonomic Postmillennialism

It becomes clear that the Theonomist view of Postmillennialism is not founded on the "optimism" that they outwardly claim. North, chastising Westminister Theological Seminary for their amillennial stance and rejection of Theonomy states:

Naturally, the amillennialists at Westminster --as far as I can tell, this means the entire faculty --believe that amillennialism is quite serviceable. But there is a problem. They have not yet begun to articulate the kind of social theory that amillennialism produces. Deuteronomy 28 provides the Christian Reconstructionist with the judicial foundation of social theory. It presents the case for God's predictable historical sanctions. It offers hope to covenant-keepers regarding the long-term efficacy of their efforts, on the earth and in history. . .But amillennialists deny the New Testament reality of Deuteronomy 28 and its sanctions. They deny that, over time, covenant-keeping produces victory. They offer their spiritual heirs only the prospects of assured defeat in history.

But the optimism of the Theonomists is not in the "Power of God", that is, "The Gospel." As we have already seen their view is that the simple proclamation of the Gospel for individual redemption is "woefully impotent." Gary North states:

The Bible sets forth a program for the worldwide dominion: the kingdom (civilization) of God. Dominion is achieved by Christians' subordination through law, leading to inheri-tance. This is no longer widely believed by Christians. Because of this, they have been squandering their inheritance. They are not in a position to exercise leadership.

As Thomas Ice states in his evaluation of Theonomy, "In theory CRMers [Christian Reconstruction Movement] strongly believe in evangelism; however, in practice it is ignored. They are working to build a society that God has not purposed."

Their postmillennialism is also based on a view of "progressive sanctification" that is foreign to Princeton Theology. Hodge states that:

Sanctification in the Westminster Catechism is said to be 'the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin and live unto righteousness.

Sanctification, in Hodge's view was an individual matter, God working through the individual believer to bring him more and more into conformity with the person of Christ. North, however, applies the doctrine of progressive sanctification to the corporate body throughout history. He states, "the same dual concepts of definitive and progressive sanctification apply to corporate groups, especially covenantal associations, and above all, the church." Again, in North's view God is progressively sanctifying society through the means of the church gaining greater influence in its structures. However, the difference between this approach and the older "social gospel" is very thin. The Bible teaches continuously that man cannot be redeemed by starting on the outside (John 3:5-7; Eph. 2:8-9; Ezk. 11:19, 36:36; Matt. 23:25-27). If the Theonomists had their wish and were in total control of the social structures of this country and put all of their laws into effect and had elders at every fork in the road, it would still be no guarantee that God would save anyone. There would be an outward conformity, especially considering the fact that Theonomists would implement capital punishment for all of the same Old Testament provisions. However, as Hodge clearly points out that type of approach is not part of God's plan:

Nor is sanctification to be confounded with the effects of moral culture or discipline. It is very possible, as experience proves, by careful moral training, by keeping the young from all contaminating influences, and by bringing them under the forming influence of right principles and good associates, to preserve them from much of the evil of the world, and to render them like the young man in the Gospel whom Jesus loved. Such training is not to be undervalued. It is enjoined in the Word of God. It cannot, however, change the nature. It cannot impart life. A faultless statue fashioned out of pure marble in all its beauty, is far below a living man.

CONCLUSIONIn this paper we have demonstrated that whatever the adherents of Theonomy may claim as to their heritage in the realm of eschatology, they cannot be seen as the "heir" of the Princeton Theology. While it must be admitted that their basic scheme or chronology for the postmillen-nial view they propose is essentially identical to that of classic Princeton Theology, their mode of bringing in that kingdom is in fact radically different. They are divergent from Princeton on many points of both theology and exegesis, but in the area of bringing the world under the submission of the church and the gospel they could not be farther apart.

Classic Princeton Theology, especially as detailed by Hodge, saw God working through the church and saw the gospel as ultimately triumphant, but even with that the return of Christ would be necessary to destroy a final rebellion and apostasy which will occur even at the end of Hodge's postmillennial "Golden Age." Theonomy, however, is what some have called a "Liberation Theology of the Right." In their view Christians need to gain control of the governmental and societal structures so that they are in a position to implement Old Testament law as the complete and total civil code for not only America, but the world. But in adopting this attitude, Theonomists have ignored the lessons of history. The Puritans in Colonial America had a society, not unlike what Theonomists would like to see implemented; but ultimately it failed. Why? Because external law can never bring internal change. You may exert a measure of control over society, but eventually it breaks down. Kuyper's effort in Holland lasted only as long as he was in power. Even Calvin's Geneva could not continue its influence many years beyond his death. The Theonomist assertions that they will be able to succeed where these others have failed in the past is simply arrogance; the claim manifests an elevated view of their own importance. North himself has said that church history will view the emergence of Theonomy as a "turning point" in the bringing in of God's kingdom. Given the substantial division within the Theonomist camp one also has to wonder which version of Theonomy is correct? Rushdoony is now nearly 80. Bahnsen has been said to have modified some of his earlier views, and although he is still clearly a theonomist, he is not nearly as radical as others. North is rapidly going to-wards a strange mixture of Theonomy and Charismatic "Name it and Claim it" Theology.

Theonomy is clearly not the "spiritual heir" of the great Princeton tradition; in that it is not a God-centered system. Barron in his conclusion states it well:

How long can the dominionists remain both countercultural and optimistic? Probably not very long, if they are relying on their occasionally expressed hopes that the substantial social transformation toward which they toil will soon begin. But if their hope remains cen-tered on the final victory Christ offers to every believer, that hope will sustain them for a lifetime, through cultural upturns and downturns alike.

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