Friday, May 15, 2009

Tree or Post?

Are you a tree or a post?

This very old joke really asks whether one believes in Post- or Pre-millennialism. Most people are not interested in such jokes, and much less in the answers to the question. I thought of this when I re-read Stanley Jones a while back. His book on the Kingdom of God, The Christ of Every Road. Jones, pointed to fallacies in both pre-and-post millennialism.

Post-millennialism chose a course of gradualism. It searched for the Kingdom of God at the end of a long search in humanity’s social progress. It prioritized social progress, believing that man would ultimately achieve the Kingdom of God through social progress. Then would follow Christ’s coming with a thousand years of peace and prosperity. Post-millennialism lost the redemptive lift that comes brings with the born again experience, as emphasized by evangelicals.

Pre-millennialism, declared Jones, deferred the Kingdom of God to a future apocalypse. This left social progress to humanists and theological liberals. Evangelicals lost their social relevancy, except for the second coming of Christ.

Each theory reduced the Kingdom of God to the coming of social reform. Pre-millennialism made contemporary Christianity a dead issue for the here-and now. It offered no social uplift. It made Christianity strictly a personal, individual issue.

Jones saw that Jesus began his teachings and his ministry with the Kingdom of God. Jesus launched his ministry with “Repent because the Kingdom is here, now” (Matthew 3). He introduced God’s authority by teaching us to “seek first the kingdom of God“ before pursuing other issues of life (Matthew 6:33).

This left pre-millennialism the lame excuse that Jesus failed to establish his kingdom at his first coming because the Jews killed him (still clinging to their political-military power). Evangelicalism still claims a quasi-conversion in Jesus, but fails to comprehend living under his Lordship and personal authority.

Post-millennialism is a dead issue today. Pre-millennialism flashes brightly, like a flaming meteor. Thus, the Evangelical push for support of the State of Israel as the chosen people. This leaves the Christian Church an historical parenthesis, after which God will reestablish His rule through the Jews and Jewish worship (a fundamental heresy)

We passed Easter, but the question still clangs boldly, “What if it really happened?” If it did, we need to come to terms with Jesus’ introduction to God’s authority and begin on that basis. What Jones wrote in the 1930s applies in 2009: the American church echoes too much of American cultural life and too little Christian converting of life’s crisis experiences. Modern church life pipes in too many echoes of the prevailing culture into our churches, giving it a religious tone, which is then amplified through what it calls preaching.

When we fail to begin with the immediacy of the Kingdom of God and repentance, we end up with nothing more than the relative kingdoms of the world. We stand in the foothills of relativism rather than on the Mountain of God’s Kingdom. As a consequence, we suffer from low visibility. Beginning with the relative kingdoms of the world, we end up with neither the power of the world nor the permanence of the Kingdom of God.

Religion comes in many forms. Hinduism invites you to empty yourself into Nirvana. Buddhism teaches you how to lose yourself in nothingness. Islam offers 5 core rules to practice and leaves you to believe what you will about things.

Christ offers a cross; He costs all. Yet, only He brings love, forgiveness, and liberty of self. And what interests me as I read current world events is this: the followers of Christ tolerate differing faiths within the political system (diversity). All others persecute and deny the personal rights of those who believe differently (political theocracy).

This is Wayne, in Warner’s World

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