Though postmillennialism is one of the most simple eschatological views to understand, it is the one most regularly mischaracterized. The problem is not the system’s difficulty, but the opponent’s disbelief. But fortunately postmillennialism is vigorous and resiliant. Despite being buried often, it comes back from the dead to trouble the gainsayers.
In a 1949 article by dispensationalist John F. Walvoord published in Bibliotheca Sacra, we read these words:
“One of the outstanding facts about postmillennialism is that it was, until the present generation, one of the most important and influential millennial theories. It was probably the dominant Protestant eschatology of the nineteenth century and was embraced by Unitarian, Arminian, and Calvinist alike. It influenced as well the prevailing concept of amillennialism during this period. In the twentieth century the course of history, progress in Biblical studies, and the changing attitude of philosophy arrested its progress and brought about its apparent discard by all schools of theology. Postmillennialism is not a current issue in millenarianism, but the principles that brought it into being and resulted in its downfall are highly significant.”
As we read Walvoord’s tearful eulogy for postmillennialism, several things should strike us.
First, he admits postmillennialism’s great impact and significance in Christianity. And certainly this optimisitic eschatology has had an enormous influence on the faith, particularly in the period of the great missionary expansion of Christianity: 1700s-1900s. This is his eulogy. Now comes his burial.
Second, he buries the postion with these words: “it was,” “until the present generation,” “arrested its progress,” “apparent discard,” “not a current issue,” and “its downfall.” It is certainly true that postmillennialism faded much in the first half of the twentieth century. But it was not wholly absent from the theological world. In fact, in the full article Walvoord cites one of its advocates, Dr. O. T. Allis, who was publishing at that very time. Unfortunately, Walvoord thought Allis was an amillennialist, so he did not recognize his influence for this eschatological system.
Third, as per usual dispensational practice, he links postmillennialism with Unitarianism. This helps scare his followers away from considering it. But there are three serious problems with this sort of attack: (1) Unitarianism cannot be “postmillennial.” Unitarians believe Christ is dead and buried; they do not believe his coming back after (post) the millennium. (2) Walvoord’s premillennialism has its own embarrassing advocates. They are widely spread in the cult world. Consider Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses as two significant examples. (3) Walvoord’s brand of dispensational premillennialism is dying out. Progressive dispensatioanlists have taken over Walvoord’s school, Dallas Theological Seminary.
Fourth, the “downfall” of postmillennialism was temporary. It has returned with renewed vigor. And of course, we believe it is here to stay. The temporary decline in postmillennial adherance among Christians is much like the temporary backsliding of the individual Christian: it is overcome.