Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Amuddleniallism Defined

Today I listened to Dr. MacArthur's message "defending" Reformed theology against amillenial and postmillenial believers who claim to hold to the doctrines of grace. The title was "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Is a Premillennialist" (you have to sign up and buy the message for $2 if you want to hear it).

I'm going to keep my comments brief (I don't want to write anything that I'll regret later), but let me say that the message was worse than the descriptions of it that I have read. I am disappointed.

John MacArthur did not do anyone any favors with this message - least of all himself. What will be the fallout from this message? There is already a lot of discussion on the 'net:
  • Some thoughtful Christians who are searching for an eschotological home will study the options more carefully after hearing this message. Some of these will end up in the amillenial camp.
  • Postmil and amil folks that were at the conference were offended at the misrepresentation of their position. Some of the guest speakers at this conference are postmil and amil. What a way to welcome your guests.
  • I have read that some historical premillenialists are crying foul because their position has not been well represented (I don't have a link yet).
  • Some Reformed Christians are pointing out the disconnect between the Reformation heritage and revisionist claims made by people like Dr. MacArthur. We don't need a searchlight pointed on our differences. We should be together for the Gospel, not opening unnecessary wounds.

Dr. MacArthur is entitled to his opinion. However, to say that amillenialism should only be the position of Arminians, evolutionists, process theologians and semi-Pelagians is offensive. His characterizations of amillenialists were muddled with criticisms of some of the wacky elements of pop-dispensationalism and radical spiritualization. He made it sound like any Reformed leaning believer that didn't completely endorse his version of eschatology denied any continuity between the covenants and rejected God's faithfulness to His promises. There were more strawmen in that message than you'd find in all of Oklahoma in August.

Okay, I'm getting carried away - I'd better quit soon.

I have friends that are premillenial and dispensational in their eschatology. We can agree to disagree without attacking one another. I don't beat people over the head with my eschatological perspective. Many people in my church couldn't tell you the name of the millenial position that I hold (though they might remember the message on Matthew 24 that I preached recently). I can appreciate that Dr. MacArthur holds his position passionately. I only wish that he had defended it with more tact, grace and care.

At the beginning of the message, Dr. MacArthur said that he was concerned that Reformed people did not give enough attention to eschatology. It's getting some attention now, but I don't think it's going to help his cause at all.


Dan S. said...

I watched the sermon live, having paid for the "live stream" of the conference. While I was somewhat surprised to hear JM tackle this subject during his opening address, and while I could be described as loosely premillenial in my eschatology, I'm not sure what all the fuss is about. I too have seen all the stuff around the blogosphere. For myself, I took the sermon as plea to sharpen my eschatology and rather than describing it with the word "loose," I need to search the Scriptures and "tighten" it up a bit. Where that lands me, we'll see.

But what say you about the main point of JM's message? How can someone who believes in sovereign election believe that Israel can forfeit their sovereign election? Would this be one of the strawmen of which you speak? I ask this in sincerity, not knowing (to my shame) the amillennial position as well as I ought.

In all the discussions I have read, I have not heard anyone answer this fundamental (to JM)question.

stauf46 said...

Hi Dan,

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. It's hard to respond to your question briefly, but, yes, the charge that amil/postmil types say that God has forfeited the election of Israel is a false charge.

I think the key issue is the centrality of the fulfilment (not replacement, cf. Mt. 5:17) of God's promises in Christ. I'll post on this later.