Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
BSac 154:614 (Apr 97) p. 222
“‘Thy Kingdom Come’: Apocalypticism in American Culture,” Randall Balmer, Union Seminary Quarterly Review 49 (1995): 17-33.
Balmer’s assessment of American millennial movements resembles his earlier treatment of contemporary evangelicalism. He writes well and usually has his facts straight, but in an attempt to offer a sociological moral to the story, he builds an overly generalized case that may cause many readers to reject his more insightful observations.
Balmer’s survey of American millennarianism begins with William Miller, then includes Charles Taze Russell, Mother Ann Lee, Joseph Smith, Nat Turner, John Nelson Darby, Charles Spurgeon, Dwight L. Moody, C. I. Scofield, Herbert W. Armstrong, Hal Lindsey, Ronald Reagan, Pat Robertson, and David Koresh. Granted, these individuals have some beliefs in common, but their association here yields the impression that they (and particularly their premillennial peers) were generally irresponsible, self-righteous, scapegoating, paranoid demagogues who have exercised a frightening and unwarranted degree of influence over American political and religious life.
In spite of this inappropriate caricature, Balmer raises some important issues in this article. He argues that evangelicals have often defined their identity by what they oppose (e.g., modernism or communism), and that eschatology has at times reinforced this fortress mentality while justifying social apathy. He may not see that both failings reflect a deeper problem—the pervasiveness of self-interest—that is not distinctively evangelical, but characteristically human. At the same time, the many premillennialists who have countered this pattern through their involvement in social ministries or political activities are not necessarily acting inconsistently, as Balmer implies. This may simply be their way of living out the parallel commands of love for one’s neighbor and distinctiveness from the world. This is not unlike the tension that has always confronted Christian eschatology, in which hope has always existed alongside another virtue—contentment. Balmer rightly criticizes those who speak only of hope, especially when it so often reflects self-interest, but one should be just as critical of those who are so contented that they need not hope at all.
Robert A. Pyne
BSac 154:614 (Apr 97) p. 223
“No Other Way, No Other Name,” Kenneth C. Fleming, Emmaus Journal 4 (1995): 125-41.
One of the greatest theological puzzles to both Christians and unbelievers is the question of how God can be fair in judging people who have never had opportunity to hear of Jesus Christ. Some answer this conundrum by saying that people ...
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