Agony, Irony, And The Postmillennialist: A Response To Gaffin, Strimple, And White -- By: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 063:2 (Fall 2001)
Article: Agony, Irony, And The Postmillennialist: A Response To Gaffin, Strimple, And White
Author: Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.


Agony, Irony, And The Postmillennialist:
A Response To Gaffin, Strimple, And White

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.a

I. Introduction

The eschatological debate between amillennialists and postmillennialists in the Reformed camp has been taking a new turn of late. Whereas amillennialists of the recent past (e.g., Hoekema and Berkouwer1 ) concentrated more on the formal eschatological (i.e., prophetic) statements of Scripture in rebutting postmillennialism, contemporary amillennialists (e.g. Gaffin, Strimple, and White2 ) are pressing the basic soteriological revelation. Though both amillennialists and postmillennialists (largely) agree with Geerhardus Vos on the eschatological nature of salvation and the redemptive-historical structure of history,3 the differences between our visions remain. Amillennialists still maintain a decidedly pessimistic expectation for the church’s historical experience before the Second Advent, whereas postmillennialists urge a robust optimism.

As I indicate elsewhere,4 the particular nature of this pessimism must be understood as presented in the debate. Obviously, all evangelical perspectives are ultimately optimistic: the righteous will be eternally blessed and the wicked forever doomed on judgment day. Nevertheless, historical pessimism characterizes the amillennial outlook in holding that: our Spirit-empowered gospel labors will

never result in worldwide revival,5 the forces of Satan will always claim the majority of the human race,6 our promotion of God’s word will not effect a cosmic cultural renewal,7 and our future is destined to collapse into horror.8 Thus, amillennialism is pessimistic when looking at historical results and when compared to postmillennialism.

The recent amillennial emphasis on Christian suffering in history underscores the postmillennialist’s pessimism charge in this regard. For instance, R. Fowler White’s important article in the Fall 2001 issue of WTJ well illustrates the matter for us. He opens with scholarly citations, highlighting the moral decline our culture is enduring. And he does so in order to reflect upon the perplexing question of “the victorious r...

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