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SAD COMMENTARY ON POP CHRISTIANITY

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  15 Comments

On my Facebook page, I recently posted a link to one of my articles on Postmillennialism . com. In that article I was responding to amillennial challenges to postmillennialism. One erstwhile Christian engaged me on the matter. What do you think about this interchange? I would be interested to hear your comments.

Critic: Why is this important Ken? What purpose does it actually serve, except to codify in some self satisfying way, one opinion over another. And they are all coming at it from the same texts of course, The Bible. If those ideas were not already so nebulous in scripture, you wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Gentry: It matters because the Bible matters. Theological reflection from the Bible is the very foundation to the Christian life.

Critic: ‘Theological reflection,’ is just another term for things some humans have surmised about scripture; to then argue over with other humans who have surmised completely different things from the same scriptures. Being fully present in a relationship with the living Christ is the very foundation of a Christian’s life, not theological speculations. And whatever the answer is in regards to that article, it doesn’t matter one bit in the eternal scheme of things, not one bit! Your first statement is a straw man. When people engage in armchair theological speculations, it isn’t because the Bible itself matters…it is because their opinions ABOUT the Bible matter. And that is what this stuff is actually all about.

Gentry: But how do you know that being fully present in a relationship with the living Christ is the very foundation of a Christian’s life? And what does that mean? You are extremely naive if you think you just open the Scripture and feel the Spirit. And theological reflection DOES matter in the eternal scheme of things. What one believes about Christ determines his eternal destiny.

Critic: Yes, but not whether one is pre-mid or post, doesn’t decide anything I believe about Christ. And I don’t need a theological disposition of John 3:16, or many other scriptures which talk of personal relationship with Christ. You are drawing arbitrary distinctions, theological reflection matters only when you are reflecting on an issue of real importance. To say because you feel that it is important, makes it so, just proves my original point. What one believes about Christ is eternal yes, but again you engage in an case of special pleading, equating that absurd article with eternal concepts concerning Christ, ignoring the glaring fact that one has not one thing to do with another. Whether one believes in a rapture, pre, mid, post trib…means nothing at all in regards to salvation. So your argument would have had more integrity, if you hadn’t tried to equate such an absurd and meaningless article about nothing…with The Son of God.

Gentry: Yes you DO need theological reflection on John 3:16. Who is this ‘God’ that loves the world? And what does it mean that ‘he gave his only Son?’ What does it mean to ‘believe’ in him? Apparently not the same thing as in John 8:30. For in John 8:31-41 these believers want to kill him. And what does it mean to ‘have’ everlasting life in the present? These are theologically-determined issues.

Besides, is the only thing a Christian is to believe about Christ? Then why is the Bible so big? How can you say what the Bible teaches about the future is not important? I thought all Scripture was inspired by God . . . and profitable. Apparently only those statements that deal with the individual’s salvation (whatever salvation means apart from theological reflection) are important.

Critic: Again Ken, you are misrepresenting my words. I said pre, post stuff is unimportant, which is obviously true, since it is a totally unanswerable question. I am not even sure it is worthy of asking… a waste of human energy. And the John 3:16 statement you made…I respond: If I only believed in Christ as my Savior, and knew nothing about the Greek words used, or how extensive the word is, or analogies to other scriptures…I would still go to Heaven. God won’t reject us for not having our definitions correct, only for what we did in regards to Christ. Are you a Calvinist? Calvinists have this deep seated need to have all their doctrinal ducks all in a pretty row. The problem with it of course, is that they are all dead ducks.

Gentry: You also said: “‘Theological reflection,’ is just another term for things some humans have surmised about scripture.” But to even talk about God giving his Son requires immense theological reflection. You can’t read this statement to someone unacquainted with Christianity and expect them to understand the theological backdrop necessary to give John 3:16 meaning. Again I ask: Who is this God? Tell me this without theology. Who is his Son? I know who my two sons are, but what do we mean about the Son of God? Are the Mormons correct: God physically co-habitated with Eve to produce many sons, one of whom was Jesus? What does it mean that God sent him — to the post office? And why did God send him — was he on vacation? To understand the very basics of John 3:16 requires theology. And that theology is derived from Scripture — the same place eschatological issues are found.

And do you really think there is no debate even over the meaning of John 3:16 among Christians? Do you really think all Christians understand it in the same way?

You have a theology, though you don’t want to admit it, though you are trying to hide it. I even bet you are a Trinitarian Christian. I imagine you have a view of Scripture that holds that it is the Word of God, perhaps a view that holds it is infallible. And if you do, you are doing theology, you are thinking in doctrinal categories. Even though you don’t want others to think more broadly about Scripture in doctrinal or theological categories.

Do you believe the book of Revelation was inspired by God? Do you believe God expects us to strive to understand it (Rev 1:3)? Do you believe Jesus wasted his disciples’ time giving them the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25), because it deals with “unimportant” things about their future? Are you “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13)? Or is any discussion about this “unimportant”?

Critic: ….

No more was said. And thank goodness. It makes me appreciate “the sounds of silence.” Now I understand how “silence is golden.” This interchange saddened me about the current level of theological understanding among contemporary, pop Christianity. Yet, we must press on! We have much work to do! And again I ask: What are your thoughts about this interchange?

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

15 responses to SAD COMMENTARY ON POP CHRISTIANITY

  1. Diane Vollmer May 22, 2012 at 6:30

    It saddens me to see the multi-dimensional, full color Word of the Living God reduced to a pencil sketch. Even in the Body of Christ we have to deal with “answer/don’t answer a fool according to his folly”.

    I spent many years in a charismatic, dispie church, and thankfully was delivered by Chilton’s “Paradise Restored” in 1987. I have since just “followed the footnotes”. Because deep calls unto deep, I have found that my personal relationship with Christ has been enriched by theological training. We need our minds renewed to the Word. God wants us to not only think, but to think like Him. These poor people don’t know what they don’t know and have been told that they don’t need to know. What a tragedy!!!

    Eschatology matters greatly. “Before Jerusalen Fell” changes everything. Knowing that we are now living in the King’s Dominion moves us from a waiting, passive mindset into the active, forward moving, occupying Army of God who advances through history with all the authority of the name of Jesus and the Word of God, whose gates the enemy of our soul will never prevail against.

    Thank you and keep up the Good Work!!

    Prevailing in the world,
    Diane Vollmer

  2. Exactly why I’m not on Facebook anymore…the constant simpleminded nonsense.

  3. A proper understanding of theology will always require that the theological understanding be practically applied to our lives – it will require some type of action on our part. This involves work; first with coming to a proper theological understanding and then its application. This can interfer with our plans for our life and requires us to look to God for His plans for our life which may not be as “fun” as our plans. This also may require that we we actually give up some things which we hold dear, but that are against His will. It may even open us to being considered as being narrow-minded, hateful and bigoted as we present the true Gospel that all men are sinners and stand condemned before God because of their sins and that salvation is only available through Christ. Therefore, the less theological understanding we have, the less we’re required to do. Finally, as you alluded to, it means we have a low opinion of God and His Word; that it is not important.

  4. Mr Gentry, i think it all comes down to this:

    “I thought all Scripture was inspired by God . . . and profitable.”

    God said that all of it is profitable. End of discussion.

  5. I think the critic does not really believe that there is actually an “ultimate truth” to be understood, and I believe this is a microcosm of our culture as a whole.

    Our government schools have taught this relativism to many a poor soul for so long that many have given up on the quest for truth or don’t believe real answers can be ever be found.

    But Christ says that you “will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” All truth then, stems from a knowledge of Christ and who He is.

    Thanks Ken for this tremendous resource. You are making an impact!

    God Bless!

  6. David A. Kobe May 22, 2012 at 6:30

    Ken,

    My reaction to “Critic” was, from his/her opening salvo, laughter. And the occasional “Oh my.”

    Critic sought from the beginning to dismiss your views as “opinion” and “self satisfying” at that. To which, my immediate thought is “well, that is critic’s opinion.”

    I believe we step into quicksand when we engage people such as “critic.” They are often not interested in an exchange of ideas. Their goal is to get you to shut up and go away. Politely of course.

    Must all Christians delve into milleninalism? No. Can a Christian go to Heaven without ever having heard or considered millennialism? Absolutely.

    Will they better be able to serve God with an accurate understanding of this matter? Most likely, but then God may know better than I how to use our weaknesses to His glory.

    You correctly ask “Then why is the Bible so big?” The reason is the bigness of our God. He will use His word to meet us where we are at. For me, bending my knee and mind and soul and spirit to His Sovereignty and exhorting others to do the same takes precedence over (but not at the expense of) engaging the battle on the millennial front.

    I appreciate your writings.

    Sincerely,

    David

  7. Ken,
    I’ve read all your books except the reprints. I’ve read Chilton’s book “The Days of Vengeance.” So I understand where you are coming from. Eschatology does affect our walk with the Lord as Postmillenialism is optimistic and presents the church as victorious! All others are pessimistic and present the church as weak and a loser totally ignoring that “the gates of hades shall not prevail against it (church, that is believers)”. The Great Awakening occurred because the church believed there was power in the preaching of the Gospel to break down the gates of hell and set the prisoners free. Communites, cities, and whole States were totally set free to worship the true and living God through Jesus Christ, our precious and powerful Savior!
    The weakness in the “critic’s” attack was first of all stating that it was your “opinion” and it was wrong. But, HIS opinion was the truth of course. You could have but did not state that what he stated was only his “opinion.” We need more godly men like you Ken who are saturated with the Word of God, living and breathing it and this, of course, is that we might know Him better and love Him more! If there is anything wrong with that then whoever believes that is probably lost or deceived into thinking they are a believer because they mentally assented to the belief the Jesus died for our sins and is the Savior but have no visible proof as their mental belief was also absent of God’s gift of repentance. I have studied deeply all of the eschatological positions being a dispensationalist as a new believer for my first 6 years as a believer. I studied for the ministry learning the languages, etc. and began to read the other viewpoints by the top experts in their particular eschatology like Cox for Amillenialism and you and David Brown, Marcellus Kik, L. Boettner, Warfield, etc. rather than read dispensational critiques of the different views so I would know for sure what they taught. In the process of studying I also looked for opposing Scriptures prayerfully and studiously to make sure I wasn’t being deceived. It has been over 20 years now that I have held to Postmillenialism, for the most part. We need to get back to the powerful preaching of the true, not watered down arminian Gospel, and watch God bring about the defeat of Satan and his forces and the world becoming true believers. As Spurgeon used to say, “Lord, convert the world to Christ.” May it be so soon for all His honor and glory and majesty and dominion and power forever, Amen.

  8. Robert Patton May 24, 2012 at 6:30

    For 70 years Matthew 15: 24 never got my attention, not that I had never read it; until a short time ago, well last year. Jesus said he was sent “only” to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
    That one sentence my friends when understood, changes alot of what people have believed
    for many centuries. Check this out for yourself, go ahead and try to defend your belief, but
    let me warn you, you may not like where it will leed.

    • Diane Vollmer May 25, 2012 at 6:30

      I’m not exactly sure of your point. Could you give me more please.

      • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. May 25, 2012 at 6:30

        My point is: Eschatology is important because the Bible is important. Christians need to be aware of the need to understand theology rather than limiting their concerns to personal salvation. Salvation is where it all begins; but God has given a large Bible relating many aspects of his truth to us. And one aspect of that truth is God’s revelation regarding the future, eschatology. “ALL Scripture is inspired of God,” not just John 3:16.

      • Diane Vollmer May 26, 2012 at 6:30

        Sorry. My reply was directed @ Robert. I totally agree with your points.

  9. Deep study of the Word of God is totally necessary in that ESP with all the different translations & studies that we have today, we need to confirm what it is that we are reading. My pastor talks frequently about that “scarlet thread” that runs through the Bible… To be able to SEE that thread deep consistent reading & study must be of habit. This would be like the college kid assuming that he looked at the pictures in his Biology book that he can know what it is that the whole study is about!
    This is sad commentary on our churches, education system & even our culture today, in that so few find it important to study & learn deeply – especially the Bible – to refute the lies & diatribe around us…

  10. 25May2012

    Hi Ken, this is Rod!

    Here’s my take on your subject.
    And I quote: Critic: Why is this important Ken? What purpose does it actually serve, except to codify in some self satisfying way, one opinion over another. And they are all coming at it from the same texts of course, The Bible. If those ideas were not already so nebulous in scripture, you wouldn’t be having this discussion.
    “…pre, post stuff is unimportant, which is obviously true, since it is a totally unanswerable question. I am not even sure it is worthy of asking… a waste of human energy.” End of quote.

    These statements by the critic is a standard, tired & worn out refrain (or cop out?) among the Ammilennialists to justify their laziness. I heard that long time ago since I got connected w/ our local Ammil Christian Reformed Church here in Manila back in 1989. Once in a consistory fellowship I asked our Pastor about end times issue, his response was one like the critic albeit a modified one: “…we don’t emphasize that in our church, it’s not that much important bro….we don’t discuss controversial issues here….yes we are Ammils but there other eschatological positions out there, you’ll never know brother; ….besides there are a lot of grey areas in symbolism especially in Revelation…” Meantime our members are getting converted to Dispy PreTrib Premil through the print & broadcast media. Among pop cable televangelists here are: John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Joel Osteen, David Jeremiah, Hal Lindsey, Chuck Smith & a host of TBN personas. In college campuses, Tim La Haye, John Mac among others are very popular & influential.

    I suspect what’s happening is this. The Ammil pastor’s inability to address hot issues about end times( like Jew/church distinction, the Pretrib Rapture doctrine, signs of the end times, the Antichrist, the dreaded Beast of Revelation & a host of others ) unwittingly create a market for what is popularly advertised out there-mostly speculative end time prophecies. Most of the time the potential victims of these charismatic end time prophet wannabes are the unsuspecting members of the church from a wide spectrum of denominations including Reformed churches. Usually the easy target are the unlearned laymen without strong foundation on hermeneutics.

    Probably this explains in large part why our Reformed church here in Manila is a mix crowd of “Tulip”Calvinists & a big fan of Dispensationalism! Yes, long before John Mac’s church had it, we had it here in Manila. But believe you me. Allow that, “it doesn’t matter what pre, mid, post prefixes you got…” statement/refrain unattended and you end up w/ this weird hodgepodge crowd of believers. Sure they love the Lord but they had it wrong on hermeneutics. And I found this out when finally I got a green light from our Pastor to conduct a Bible study on end times issues before our consistory back in 1997.

    Yes, our understanding of & relationship w/ Christ is very important but not to the neglect of other theological concerns like eschatology. For in studying end times issues, we are being taught the right hermeneutical approach to reading & interpreting the Bible. Is that a waste of human energy?

    “Lift high His royal banner that it may not suffer loss”…..

    God bless Pastor Ken

  11. I wonder is Critic is on the verge of converting to postmil and is voicing what he hears in his community looking for ways to respond. Dangerous business in these dispensationalist communities. Anyone who questions it is a threat and often treated as a heretic. One of my students called it the new evangelical inquisition. We have met the Pharesees and them are us. May God make us kind and patient.

    Some who call themselves amil may not know what that really means. They may be more accurately pan-millennialists, sure that everything will pan out in the end while in the process of evaluating and deciding. Some folks are just too busy to think much about it, kind of like sheep without a shepherd.

    Critic’s approach seems to reflect how our society has lost the art of rational argument and friendly interchange. What folks feel becomes fact, assertions without arguments or proofs. Rhetorical fallacies are taken as definitive proofs, end of discussion.

    It is wise to refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person but engaging a wounded, lost sheep is another matter. Sometimes they bite but it is worth the risk to help them.

    I take great comfort in God’s sovereignty. It doesn’t depend on me. The gospel will triumph. The question I ask my contemporaries here in Mexico where I am a missionary is: are we going to be another generation that dies in the wilderness or are we the generation that believes and crosses the Jordan to take our promised land right here, right now, in the name of the King of kings we sing about every Sunday?

  12. BTW, if I may add. I got educated in end times/eschatological issues & worldview thru the Newsletters of Gary North’s “Dispenastionalism inTransition” back in the late 80’s. After Michael Gilstrap, I stumbled upon Kenneth Gentry who” twisted my arm” to get interested & know what should be known in the larger picture of prophecy/end times concerns. Included to this is knowing the right exegetical approach to the Biblical text or passage. Yes, its more than knowing the differences between the A, Pre, Post & Dispy. These” nit-pickers”,like Ken Gentry along w/ Gary Demar, David Chilton & others saved me from a lot of troubles that beset modern Christians & churches today-from getting victimized by the false teachings of pop prophet wannabes that flood our culture today.

    Since then wherever I am, from Riyadh to California & now back in Manila, I am armed to the teeth to teach & explain the basics, historic & critical issues involved in eschatology. Modesty aside, even in our Christian Reformed church here in Manila today, our younger Pastors are amazed to listen to the level of my understanding( especially the critique of Dispy) in the realm of eschatology to think that I’m only a layman!

    To my mentors & theological teachers( Ken,Gary, David, Jerry Johnson, J Jordan & others) I say, thank you very much for being “nit-pickers” & “wasting your time & energy”(tongue-in-cheek of course!).And now I am harvesting the FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR-more so our church & other Christians too !

    God bless Pastor Ken!

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