POSTMILLENNIALISM’S “FAITH IN MAN”
Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope. Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually. Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood. Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies.
Psalm 119:116-19 (emphasis added)
Again and again, premillennialists and amillennialists accuse postmillennial Christian Reconstructionists of having too much faith in man. This is somewhat amusing to Christian Reconstructionists, since the founders and present leaders of the movement are all Calvinists. They believe in the traditional Calvinist doctrine of the total depravity of man – a doctrine denied by all Arminians (“free will religion”), which the vast majority of premillennialists and amillennialists are. The Calvinist believes that there is nothing innately good in fallen man:
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6).
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not (Romans 7:18).
What Christian Reconstructionists believe in is the effective empowering by the Holy Spirit in history. They know that no person is ever brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ except by the work of the Holy Spirit. They know that the natural man does not otherwise receive the things of the Spirit (I Corinthians 2:14). They know that it is no more difficult for the Holy Spirit to bring five billion people to saving faith than it is for Him to bring one lost sheep back into the fold.
Here is the great irony of the debate over the Reconstructionists’ “faith in man.” It is the Reconstructionists’ Arminian critics who believe that unsaved man is inherently autonomous and therefore possesses the power to resist the Holy Spirit’s decision to save him. They believe that a postmillennial revival is inherently impossible because of the power of rebellious autonomous men. They have great faith in man –autonomous, unsaved man. He can thwart the plan of God. Autonomous man says “no” to God, and God supposedly chooses never to overcome this “no.”
So, it is in fact the critic of postmillennialism who has faith in autonomous man. He believes that the unsaved mankind has such enormous power to do evil that God cannot or will not overcome evil in history by the Spirit-empowered gospel. God has decided to let the earth go to hell, historically speaking (amillennialism), or else restore it by the exercise of political power (premillennialism): the bodily return of Jesus Christ, who will set up a political kingdom and rule from a literal throne on earth.
It is never a biblical question of “faith in man” vs. “faith in God.” It is rather a question of faith in God’s willingness and ability to manifest His plan for history: (1) by the historical triumph of covenant-breaking men, or (2) by the historical triumph of covenant-keeping men. The question is this: Should we have greater faith in the future success of God’s human representatives in history or Satan’s human representatives? The humanists, amillennialists, and premillennialists vote for the second group. The postmillennialists do not. This is why they are so deeply resented. They are challenging the pietist-humanist agreement.
Rushdoony has said it well: “Fundamentalists believe in God but not in history. Humanists believe in history but not in God. Postmillennialists believe in both God and history.” History is therefore not a threat to Christianity; it is an inescapable threat to anti-Christianity. Only postmillennialists can consistently say this.
A Shift in Premillennial Rhetoric
Nevertheless, these days we find that many fundamentalist activists are saying things very much in line with postmillennialism’s vision of the church’s historical victory, which shows how far they have departed from traditional premillennialism. The inherent pessimism of the premillennial position disturbs the activists, who tend to be heavy donors to the major fundamentalist ministries. This is why the premillennial leaders no longer say very much about eschatology. Eschatology has therefore very nearly become a dead issue among major premillennial leaders.
This shift in emphasis is evidence of the rapid fading of the old dispensational premillennial position. There are today very few dispensationalist seminary professors who are willing to go into print about the details of premillennial eschatology, let alone its cultural implications. Their silence is revealing.
The last two major television evangelists who prominently preached traditional pietistic premillennialism were Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. Both of them suffered public humiliation. Swaggart attacked Bakker publicly when he got caught in sexual sin, and then fell himself when another of his pastoral victims who had been caught and exposed by Swaggart, losing his ministry as a result, hired a private investigator to catch his tormenter – just one big, happy, dispensational family, all under grace and not law.
Swaggart said repeatedly before the cameras that he was the last of the dispensational position’s prominent defenders. Just before his front-page crisis over his visits to a prostitute, he was preaching weekly against “dominion theology.” I journeyed to Baton Rouge in the fall of 1986 and had a meeting with him and several of his Bible college instructors over this issue. I feared that he would begin to single out Christian Reconstructionists as examples of “dominion theology.” He did agree to read some Reconstructionist books before attacking us publicly. He never got around to us in time – prime time, anyway.
The traditional premillennialist insists that he does have faith in history, but only in the historical period after Christ returns to set up His international bureaucratic Kingdom. Only when the present world order is replaced by Christ’s bureaucratic order, they insist, will history cease to be a threat to Christians and the church. (The amillennialist does not even have this post-rapture hope, which is why Rushdoony once called them premillennialists without earthly hope.)
 Greg L. Bahnsen and Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., House Divided: The Break-Up of Dispensational Theology (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1989)
 The Library of Congress has added “dominion theology” to its catalogue reference guidelines, but not Christian Reconstruction. Thus, my books are listed under this broader identification.