THE PIETIST-HUMANIST ALLIANCE
And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: And they said unto them, The LORD look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.
Premillennialists preach escape for today – escape from involvement in politics, plus the inevitable cultural retreat and defeat of the church on this side of the Second Coming. They also preach the wonders of bureaucratic power for the far side of the Second Coming. What they mean by today’s escape is today’s subordination to the culture of “Egypt.”
They resent anyone who would make their humanist task masters angry. What frightens some of the dispensational critics is their fear of persecution. David Allen Lewis warns in his book, Prophecy 2000, that “as the secular, humanistic, demonically-dominated world system becomes more and more aware that the Dominionists and Reconstructionists are a real political threat, they will sponsor more and more concerted efforts to destroy the Evangelical church. Unnecessary persecution could be stirred up. “ In short, because politics is supposedly humanistic by nature, any attempt by Christians to speak to political issues as people – or worse, as a people – who possess an explicitly biblical agenda will invite “unnecessary persecution.”
Question: On what philosophical basis can they legitimately challenge the many modern humanistic versions of the power religion, which also have great faith in the transforming power of bureaucracy? Only on this basis: The humanists do not allow the Christians to run the show, whereas Christ will allow this during the millennium. In short, Premillennialists are merely preaching a “new, improved” version of bureaucracy in the future.
For today, however, they preach that “you shouldn’t polish brass on a sinking ship.” They preach that the ship of State cannot be saved on this side of the rapture, and any attempt to save it is a waste of time and money. If they are consistent with their premillennial faith, they have to agree with Professor Harold Hoehner of Dallas Theological Seminary when he says: “I think the whole thing is wrong-headed. I just can’t buy their basic presupposition that we can do anything significant to change the world. And you can waste a lot of time trying.”
Only inconsistent premillennialists disagree with this outlook – the people who have been deeply influenced by Reconstructionism’s this-world agenda, despite their loud protests to the contrary. These are the people, praise God, whose calls for Christian activism are steadily softening up the resistance to Christian Reconstructionism’s message within premillennial circles.
The number of these inconsistent premillennial activists is growing rapidly. Members of the older school of premillennialism see exactly where their social activist colleagues are headed theologically, but the activists are sick and tired of sitting passively in the back of humanism’s bus. They want to protest against their status as second-class citizens, even though they also believe that Christians will never get into the driver’s seat this side of the rapture.
What they do not want to admit yet is that biblical law provides the only valid road map. We Christian Reconstructionists believe that they will eventually change their minds, or at least their brightest younger followers will. So do the traditional premillennialists, but there is little that they can do about it.
Isaiah’s Millennial Vision
Autonomous man, the traditional, consistent premillennialist says, is more powerful in history than the Spirit-empowered gospel. Then premillennialists accuse Christian Reconstructionists of having too much faith in man. But is it “faith in man” to preach that the Holy Spirit will change the hearts of many men in history? Is it “faith in man” to preach, with Isaiah, that a better day is coming? “Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in judgment. And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. And the eyes of them that see shall not be dim, and the ears of them that hear shall hearken. The heart also of the rash shall understand knowledge, and the tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly. The vile person shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person will speak villany, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. The instruments also of the churl are evil: he deviseth wicked devices to destroy the poor with lying words, even when the needy speaketh right. But the liberal deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things shall he stand” (Isaiah 32:1-8).
Must this king reign from some future earthly throne in order for this prophecy to be fulfilled? Why? Why can’t He reign from on high, at the right hand of God? Why can’t He reign through the Holy Spirit and His holy people? Theologically speaking, why not?
The Reign of Jesus Christ
What kind of religion is premillennialism? What kind of ethical system does it teach? The same as amillennialism teaches: the defeat of Christian civilization in history. Evil men will triumph culturally in history. The church’s gospel of salvation will never transform the world. It will at best produce besieged little groups of Christians, vainly struggling to keep from being overwhelmed.
But why should evil men get more powerful as time goes on, while righteous men get less powerful over time? Both the amillennialist and the premillennialist insist that this is the case in the era of the church in history. But why should this be the case? Do unbelievers have the principles of success? Does evil produce good fruit in history, and righteousness produce bad fruit? Does God in the long run in history reward the unjust and curse the just? Jesus taught the opposite: “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 7:17-19).
The premillennialist has to argue that Jesus Christ’s earthly millennial reign will alone bring righteousness the way that Isaiah describes. This ethical transformation somehow cannot (or will not) be achieved from on high. This means that Jesus Christ’s physical presence at the head of an international bureaucracy will alone make possible Isaiah’s scenario – a heart and mind kind of change – but Jesus cannot (or refuses to) achieve this transformation from on high. This means that Jesus can more efficiently change men’s actions through the power of an earth-based bureaucracy than the Holy Spirit can by changing people’s hearts through the power of the gospel. Premillennialists do not put it this way, of course, since it sounds terrible, but this is what they implicitly teach.
Premillennialists do not discuss the nature of the millennial bureaucracy, just as Marx refused to discuss the details of his post-revolution millennial world. You cannot find detailed premillennial discussions of this absolutely crucial question: What win be fundamentally different about the future millennial era?
Why will people be more obedient to God during the earthly millennial rule of Christ? Why will an international bureaucracy be able to make men behave according to God’s law (or will)? Why will Christ’s mere physical presence 10,000+ miles away make mankind significantly more obedient, when they refuse to obey Him as God today? What will make the bureaucrats in the justice system any more reliable today than those in the Exodus wilderness under Moses?
Obviously, the premillennialist cannot answer that more people will be converted to saving faith merely because of the bodily presence of Christ on earth. This would make the saving work of the Holy Spirit today into little more than an afterthought.
There may be premillennialists who do not hold such a view of the future. If there are, they have an obligation to explain their views in print, where their arguments can be scrutinized by the rest of us. They need to explain precisely what will be different about civil justice in the future millennium. Why should Christ’s bodily presence make any fundamental difference in history except for the handful of people whose court cases actually reach His supreme world court in Jerusalem (or wherever His throne will be)? Why should Jesus’ perfect judicial decisions achieve anything fundamentally different than Moses’ perfect judgments achieved in the wilderness (Exodus 18)?
The reason why I emphasize the judicial character of the millennium is that this is the only world-transforming change that traditional dispensationalism asserts for the bodily return of Christ during the millennium. Orthodox premillennialists know that Jesus’ bodily presence will, in and of itself, be able to convert no more people to saving faith than His bodily presence did two millennia ago. It is the Holy Spirit who converts men to saving faith, and He will not be “more present” then than He is now. Indeed, if we are to take seriously Jesus’ comments in John 16, the Holy Spirit will be in some way less present. Jesus had to leave the earth in order for the Spirit to come in full power.
Premillennialism is a very strange Christian outlook. It implicitly denies what it explicitly preaches: the heart-transforming power of the gospel in history. The premillennialist looks forward to the justice of the coming earthly millennium, with its bureaucratic order, yet he also proclaims the blessings of spiritual conversion today. Will men be better off eternally because of Jesus’ judicial bureaucracy than they are today under the Holy Spirit’s soul-saving power? In what way?
It is odd that premillennialists should accuse postmillennialists of having too much faith in man, when their own vision of the healing power of international bureaucracy dwarfs anything that the socialists or Communists have ever taught about social salvation through power. Christian Reconstructionists have little faith in bureaucracy, either now or in the future. Our faith in the transforming power of the Holy Spirit is the basis of our confidence in a bottom-up, freedom-based transformation of society. If this is “faith in man,” make the best of it!
Meanwhile, the pietist-humanist alliance continues: a rejection of the idea of Christian social transformation based on a return to biblical law. The Christians of our day do not want deliverance from Egypt. They prefer slavery to freedom, if this freedom means that they must challenge the rulers of our day in the name of God.
The humanists want Christians to stay out of politics as Christians. The pietists agree. The humanists deny that there are valid biblical blueprints that apply to this world. The pietists agree. The humanists argue that Old Testament laws, if applied today, would produce tyranny. The pietists agree. The humanists say that the civil government should be run in terms of religiously neutral laws. The pietists agree. The humanists deny that the God of the Bible brings predictable sanctions in history against societies that do not obey His law. The pietists agree. The humanists deny that the preaching of the gospel will ever fundamentally change the way the world operates. The pietists agree. The humanists say that Christians should sit in the back of cultural bus. The pietists agree. This is why both sides hate the message of Christian Reconstruction.
 Lewis, Prophecy 2000 (Green Forest, Arkansas: New Leaf Press, 1990), p. 277.
 “Is Christ or Satan the Ruler of This World?” Christianity 1bday (March 5, 1990), p.43.
 For a detailed refutation of this view of ethical cause and effect in history, see Gary North, Dominion and Common Grace: The Biblical Basis of Progress (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics, 1987).