Millennial Series: Part 1: The Millennial Issue in Modern Theology -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 106:421 (Jan 1949)
Article: Millennial Series: Part 1: The Millennial Issue in Modern Theology
Author: John F. Walvoord


Millennial Series: Part 1:
The Millennial Issue in Modern Theology

John F. Walvoord

[Author’s note: Many have requested that Bibliotheca Sacra publish a series of articles dealing with the contemporary discussion of the millennial issue in theology. Beginning with this Number, this series will be undertaken. It is the desire of the author to be constructive, not controversial; but due note will be taken of the many recent books which have appeared bearing on this subject. The author will welcome suggestions from readers.]

The events of the last quarter of a century or more have had a tremendous impact on the thinking of the scholarly world. In philosophy there has been a trend toward realism and increasing interest in ultimate values and ethics. In science the moral significance of scientific knowledge and the growing realization that physical science is a part of world life and meaning have emerged. In theology there has been what amounts to a similar revolution, particularly in eschatology.

Current Trends in Millennial Literature

One of the significant facts of the theology of the last century is its emphasis on eschatological or prophetic questions. Even the works of liberal theologians frequently discuss the Christian outlook. Millar Burrows, for instance, in his work An Outline of Biblical Theology rightly gives a long chapter to the subject, and current liberal theological anthologies such as Thomas Kepler’s Contemporary Thinking about Jesus and his Contemporary Religious Thought both have considerable sections on eschatology from recent writings of liberal theological scholars.

For the most part, writings in eschatology among the liberals are limited to the search for ultimate ethical values rather than a statement of a prophetic program. The light cast on the path ahead is at best out of focus and presents a blurred perspective. The trend toward eschatology is significant, however, as a background to our present study of the millennium.

Before the first World War, the combined onslaught of higher criticism and modern humanism had wrought havoc in the theological world. Liberals were outdoing each other in the race to see who could disbelieve the most. Postmillennialism was at its peak and homilies poured out glowing accounts of the triumphant progress of Christianity, recognition of the universal brotherhood among men, and the power of the church in world affairs. The first World War brought these trends to an abrupt halt. After all, man was not adequate within himself as humanism had contended, and the day of a golden age in which Christian principles should dominate the world after the postmillennial pattern s...

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