HOW I BECAME POSTMILLENNIAL

PMT 2014-074 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.Conference preaching

I was not born a postmillennialist. I was born an American, therefore, I was born a dispensationalist. Dispensationalism was the evangelical atmosphere which I breathed, even before I knew what it was. In fact, when I would read the newspaper, I couldn’t help but end each news item by thinking, “According to biblical prophecy!”

I was converted to Christ in 1966 at a dispensationalist youth camp in Boca Raton, Florida. I was there because my dispensationalist uncle (Rev. John S. Lanham) longed to see me converted. He paid my way to the camp where I heard the gospel preached with clarity for the first time in my life (even though I had been in regular attendance in a Methodist church all my life).

My educational wandering

Upon my conversion I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. So I began my college career at Middle Tennessee State University majoring in Art, which I enjoyed engaging in during high school. One of my first cousins was a commercial artist, which impressed me. Though I was a decent artist at the high school level, when I got to college the other students were drawing circles around me. So I began to consider another academic quest.

My father was an aeronautical engineer, so I thought I might like to try my hand at that. For two years I studied engineering at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga. But that did not interest me either. I really had a deep yearning to study the Bible. I tell people that while I was in a class on calculus the Lord called me to ministry. (I never could figure out what calculus was all about. I initially thought it was teaching you how to use an abacus, and since I had owned one since I was five, I thought this might be fun.)


Studies in Eschatology” (4 CDs) Four lectures by Ken Gentry
This four lecture series was given in Vancouver, Washington.
It provides both a critique of dispensationalism, as well as
positive studies of postmillennialism in the Psalms and Revelation.
This provides helpful comparative insights into eschatological pessimism and optimism.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


So I finally transferred to a dispensationalist college: Tennessee Temple College, also in Chattanooga. At last I had discovered what I wanted to do with my life. And more importantly, what God wanted me to do with the life he had given me. I eagerly engaged the courses, securing a B.A. in Biblical Studies.

Upon graduating from Tennessee Temple, I enrolled in a dispensationalist seminary, Grace Theological Seminary (Winona Lake, Ind.). There I was able to engage much deeper study of the Bible and theology. I was quite happy with the depth of my theological studies and the strength of the Christian fellowship there at GTS.

My dispensational rapture

However, while late in my second year at Grace Theological Seminary, two influences converged in causing me to reject dispensationalism. The first was my researching a paper on the Lordship Controversy. This led to my discovery of the significance of Peter’s Acts 2 enthronement passage, which shook my dispensationalism to its very foundation. Peter’s sermon had Christ enthroned at his resurrection, rather than at the beginning of the millennium. The second was the discovery at about the same time of O. T. Allis’ Prophecy and the Church. This work bulldozed the residue of my collapsed dispensationalism.

As a result, a couple of friends of mine (Rev. Alan McCall and Mr. Barry Bostrom, Esq.) and I not only soon departed dispensationalism but transferred from Grace Seminary to Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. Previously we had been partial Calvinists, now we had become fully reformed, hence non-dispensational.

At Reformed Seminary I took two courses that initially seemed implausible and misguided extravagance. The courses were “History and Eschatology” (in which postmillennialism was presented and defended ) and “Christian Theistic Ethics” (in which was set forth theonomic ethics). Both of these courses were taught by Greg L. Bahnsen.

Regarding the eschatological question, even though I was no longer a dispensationalist, I did not know what I was, eschatologically-speaking. I had assumed Pentecost, Lindsey, and other dispensationalists were correct in affirming “postmillennialism finds no defenders or advocates in the present chiliastic discussions within the theological world.” [1]

My postmillennial conversion

Unfortunately, I still had dispensational blinders on my eyes, for in the very era in which Pentecost’s book was published (1958) there were at least four notable works in defense of postmillennialism — one of them endorsed by the famed, orthodox Old Testament scholar, Oswald T. Allis: J. Marcellus Kik’s, Matthew Twenty-Four (1948) and Revelation Twenty (1955), Roderick Campbell’s Israel and the New Covenant (Introduction by O. T. Allis, 1954), and Loraine Boettner’s The Millennium (1957).

And how could anyone believe in the applicability of Old Testament law to modern culture? The notion was even more far-fetched to me than the idea of victory of the gospel in history. Dispensational constructs still haunted my mind.

In both of the aforementioned courses I continued in steadfast opposition to the professor through almost half of each course. You might say that I “kicked against the pricks.” But in both courses I was eventually swayed by the sheer force of biblical exegesis and consistent theological analysis. I went into these courses as an anti-theonomic amillennialist; I came out as theonomic, postmillennialist.


Revelation, God and Man (24 CDs)
Formal Christ College course on the doctrines of revelation, God, and man.
Opens with introduction to the study of systematic theology.
Excellent material for personal study or group Bible study.
Strongly Reformed and covenantal in orientation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


I date the final stage of my full theological transformation to 1977, the year I graduated from RTS. My reformed theology was now complete; with the Westminster Divines I could cite Old Testament case laws alongside of New Testament passages for divine insight into the resolution of moral issues. And I could turn to the Old and New Testament prophetic hope for a proper understanding of the Gospel Victory Theme of eschatology. In short, I could apply the whole of Scripture to the whole of life in confident anticipation of all glory being Christ’s in His world.

How did you become a postmillennialist? What biblical passages persuaded you? I would be interested to know.

Note

[1] J. Dwight Pentecost, Things To Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 387; cp. Hal Lindsey, Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), 176.

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5 thoughts on “HOW I BECAME POSTMILLENNIAL

  1. howarddouglasking June 20, 2014 at 6:31 am

    My Postmillennialist Testimony

    When I was a new Christian, recently rescued by God’s grace from the drug culture, attending a dispensational church (interestingly named “Five Points Community Church”), between 1969 and 1972, the choir director loaned me a book called The Blessed Hope, by George Ladd. In his introduction, he surveyed the eschatological views of some outstanding American Christian leaders, including Jonathan Edwards. I had been reading Edwards on the liberty of the will; so I was interested to find that he was a postmillennialist. I had come under the influence of some calvinistic Baptists in a sister church, and was studying that issue in depth at the time. I found out that David Brainerd and George Whitfield were also postmillennialists. I left my fundamentalist church and began attending a calvinistic Baptist church an hour’s drive from my home in Pontiac Michigan. There I met a fellow called Phil Cavin, (a pastor somewhere in the northwest, last time I sighted him) who told me of Lorraine Boettner’s great book offer – all five of his books for some incredibly low price (15 dollars?) I bought them, and read The Millennium with pleasure. At about the same time, I read The Puritan Hope, by Iain Murray, and I’ve never looked back. I think I’ve read every book I know about on the subject, and written a bit myself.

    I’ve been in trouble everywhere I have gone over this and other odd things I believe that are just what our Reformed fathers believed. Even the Reformed Presbyterians, who once published “testimonies” (denominational standards) affirming this very doctrine are now going pessimillenial. The doctrine of an imminent return of Christ has temporarily triumphed in most places. I am now serving in an ARP church whose first pastor was Dr. Steve Woods’ (now in Australia). He taught our congregation a form of hyper-dispensationalism, which you could read about in his book, Ages of the Kingdom. I say, “could” – not “can” – because I advise against it, unless you enjoy frustration. (I would be glad to send you my review if you wish.)

    Howard Douglas King

  2. Tom Smedley June 20, 2014 at 9:16 am

    In 1975, I fell back to earth on melted wings after trekking through high-energy, high-demand, hot-house environments: Jesus Freak communes, Pentecostal tent crusades, a street mission that became an authoritarian cult. The Messiah had not come down to earth on schedule, so, reluctantly, I had to.

    People do have reasons for what they do. Widely accepted beliefs can lead a young man with no people skills to drop out of college, quit his job, and seek to “live by faith” as a “full-time Christian minister.”

    One element of that misdirection was a popular, but faulty, doctrine of time. If Jesus is returning within the next few years, why bother “polishing the brass on a sinking ship?” Time is so short that any project other than “soul-winning” is wasted effort.
    This leads directly to another element of my error, a faulty doctrine of vocation. If soul-winning is all that matters, then shoe-making or scholarship are trivial, secondary callings, that can only satisfy the lesser folks who pay the bills. And surely someone as special as me should strive to be among God’s elite, right?

    Finally, there is a faulty doctrine of community. We forget too easily that the God of Christianity, the Blessed Trinity, is a holy Community. The American tradition of individualism bends our aspirations towards the dream of becoming an imitation Jesus, a spiritual superman, a Lone Ranger, Napoleon Solo, striding in this our might through the flaming ruins of a dying civilization. Or, if we’re not quite there yet, leech onto a spiritual superstar, and bob along like a little cork in his wake, until the day of our own apotheosis! The Master Plan of Evangelism can stress the master/disciple relationship so strongly that the family gets the dregs, the leftovers of our lives.

    The God-ordained covenantal orders of church, family, and civil order are designed with human beings, not super heroes, in mind. Maintaining these covenants is a time-consuming project, requiring patience, attention, and sustained effort. It’s so much easier – and more rewarding – to pour our energies into showy public projects. Billy Sunday had a million notches on his Bible, adulation and global acclaim, but lost all four of his children. His is not a Christian success story.

    Ideas have consequences, asserted courtly Christian writer and scholar Richard Weaver. Bad ideas can have very bad consequences.

    Bad theology is a harsh taskmaster, wrote Charles Farrah Jr. in his book From the Pinnacle of the Temple: Faith or Presumption? Farrah dissected the disasters that turn up all too often in the wake of “prosperity preaching” and “faith healing.” As Christians, we are called to walk by faith, and not by sight. Protestant Christians further assert that salvation is grasped through faith. This makes us singularly vulnerable to those who would play upon our credulity by appealing to our presumption. It would be so nice if “by faith” we could control God, if we could master the magic words and rituals that will make our desires come to pass.

    Real life, however, does not work that way. Parents who withhold a son’s insulin in order to exercise the faith that will force the healing to happen have watched their beloved child die in a diabetic coma.

    Thoughtful people, folks who take ideas seriously, can demonstrate the fallacies of popular notions by applying them with ruthless consistency. Combine an idea-driven personality with an indifference to social cues, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    Get a new view of time, community, and vocation, and you have a recipe for recovery, joy, and influence.

    Transition

    In 1970, a friend and I led a dissolute young man to embrace the Christian gospel, and the Great King it proclaims. Ten years later, Jimmie returned the favor and tossed me a lifeline back to a sense of significance, a sense that God’s purposes were still at work in my life. He handed me a stack of books by the ArmEnian Calvinist, Rousas J. Rushdoony.

    I had assumed that all sound Bible-believing Christians also bought into the footnotes in Scofield’s Bible. Yet, here was a godly scholar who applied God’s Word to all of life – and did not embrace the apocalyptic perspective so common among evangelicals. Rushdoony could write convincingly about the end of our civilization – and do so with exuberant optimism, with the conviction that God has even better things ahead for His elect. We can build a better world, rather than just wring our hands and petulantly bewail the failing status quo. God’s Word, presence, and sovereign authority over history guarantee eventual victory for His people, His purposes, and His Christ.

    With a sense of desperate urgency, like a man staggering out of a desert into an oasis, I absorbed this “Calvinism on steroids,” this fresh perspective that addressed itself to, and made sense out of, all of life. In a “second conversion,” I saw that Jesus is Lord over the universe around me, as well as the “universe” within. Jesus rules over objective reality as well as subjective experience. The word “Lord” is more than a synonym for “guru.” The Master of Creation is not merely my domesticated personal spiritual coach. He works today, in, through, and for us, to restore His damaged creation. And He works through the normal elements of creation to restore our damaged lives. It is because God so loves the world that He conscripts us into His service as minders and menders of His injured handiwork. I do not “invite Jesus into my life” as a must-have accessory. Rather, He summons me – and my house – into His life. And His life is so much larger, grander, energetic, and creative than I could have ever imagined.

    If God’s redemptive purposes apply to all of life, then every calling is a holy calling. Every Christian has an assigned task, and is equipped by temperament and gifts for a vocation that will make a permanent difference in the world for the glory of God. As this reality sank in, I canceled my childish schemes for getting into some form of professional ministry, and discovered my vocation as a technical writer.

    My attitude toward material possessions was also transformed. If God’s created universe is good in its origins, and meant to be improved upon, then true godliness is a grateful godliness that rejoices in the good things God provides, rather than scorning them. A minute percentage of God’s people may be called to celibacy. A minute percentage may be called to voluntary poverty. The default setting for optimum human happiness, however, is married life, and material sufficiency. Every man should sit under his own vine, and under his own fig tree, and none should make him afraid.

    Our perspective on time, grace, and matter affects the kinds of lives we can provide for our families. As James B. Jordan wrote, Jesus adorns His bride, the church. And it is the obligation of the Christian man to adorn his wife with the costliest jewelry he can afford. Says I to my wife one night, after wrestling with this novel new idea, “Honey, we are no longer poor. We need to buy you some new clothes.” These were words she’d never expected to hear – and suddenly, those new books on my shelf appeared in a more wholesome aspect.

    Children started showing up soon after.

  3. Ray Shores June 20, 2014 at 11:31 am

    For me, it was the Great Commission. I was an anti-theonomic Amil as well. When I looked at the promises of the gospel triumphing throughout all cultures across the world, how could that not affect them? In other words, if God saves a culture, He’s going to change it. The nations will be taught to obey everything Jesus has commanded. What then, would be the system of law for these nations?

    I believed theonomy before I knew what it was, though. In fact, for the longest time I didn’t discuss it with anyone because I thought that people would think I was a crazy heretic. Then I heard a sermon from Dan Horn on the sufficiency of Scripture for laws of nations and realized that other people believed what I did. Then I realized what a rich history Christianity has in gospel triumph and gospel change.

  4. Sandra McFerran June 20, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    ..I wish I could report something as interesting and theological as those before me, but no. I came by way of the simple road: The Bible. I did not know I was Calvinist, Reformed, ‘Nomic, ‘Millenial. I came by way of reading my bible following a true Holy Spirit moment while standing in my dining room with a friend being invited to her church – a little Pentecostal church near the Olympia Brewery – and I said YES I’d go. Oh dear what had I just said!
    But true to his role he sent me to find my bible and within a few openings the little cardboard thing began falling apart. An excuse to buy a nice big modern bible – and I did … it was lovely to read, and I did. I spent several years traipsing through various churches, not knowing exactly what was wrong with the preaching and teaching, but knowing something wasn’t in sync with what I read in my bible sent me in search again and again. I found my way to the ministry of Dr. Steve Roy, a ‘4-pointer’, but I was on my way to finding truth I could reconcile coming from the pulpit.
    I found books by Dr. Sproul, and others with similar teaching, and the Early Fathers ,,, and WOW that was nothing like I had been hearing along the way to hearing what I had been reading in the bible. My library was changing and I ended up throwing a big black garbage bag full of books into a dumpster – nothing I wanted to have others read! But I had learned a lot about erroneous teaching and recognized it everywhere I turned; friends, family, co-workers.
    A few years later I was blest to enjoy, and learn from, the preaching and teaching of Dr Ken Gentry. All of my unspoken questions were answered. His clear, concise exegesis of every verse, every tenet, every tough point – he left nothing to doubt, and wrote brilliantly on each subject he wanted others to rightly understand. Would that there were more men who gave so much to careful study and explanation of The Word. I didn’t mean to write a big compliment to him, but there it is – it’s how I came to know biblical teaching, particularly in regard to end times, and understand that I was Postmillennial.

  5. Lance A Box June 21, 2014 at 1:14 am

    For me, it was Daniel 2:44-45 and Acts 3:21. Previously, far too many Bible passages made no logical sense (i.e. cursing a fig tree, telling mountains to fall into the sea, etc.) in a Pre-millennial, Pre-tribulational, Despensational framework. And what about the Pauline passages and Revelation passages that seemed to say that the Jews aren’t true Jews? Faith is not irrational, it is not ethereal, and it is not existential. Faith is faithfulness to the covenant, God having done His part, and us doing our part, by His enabling and grace.

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