If the Kingdom Is Going to Arrive in 2016 We Better Get Busy

Did you know that some Baptists in the 1850’s predicted that all evil would be stamped out by 2016? David Bebbington’s book, Baptists Through the Centuries, highlights the optimism many 19th-century Baptists had about the future.Baptiststhroughthecenturies Like most evangelicals of that time, a majority of Baptists held to Postmillennialism (Premillennialism did not become the predominant view until the 20th century). In 1854, the General Baptist Magazine published an article, “The Millennium: It’s Nature and Blessings.” Bebbington cites the article as an example of the cheerful hopefulness of that era:

“Most Evangelicals of the nineteenth century professed postmillennialism, the belief that conditions would improve as a result of the preaching of the gospel so that the second coming would not take place until the world was fit to receive its king….With railroads, steamships, and the electric telegraph abolishing distance, progress seemed a reality. These innovations were regarded as harbingers of the millennial glory. In 1854 the English General Baptist Magazine was sanguine about the prospects of the world as the millennium approached. The gospel would triumph, war would cease, and famine would be no more. Crime, drunkenness, ‘lewdness,’ slavery, oppression, scandal, loose talk, false teaching, idols, popery, and paganism would all be swept away. There would also be an end to ‘the oppressive weight of taxes that grind nations to the dust.’ The author of the article expected that this formidable set of changes could be accomplished by 2016.” (Bebbington: 2010, 125)

Why 2016? How did the article’s author arrive at predicting this particular year? Bebbington doesn’t say. I suspect the author would be disappointed with the real 2016. A couple of takeaway thoughts:

Date-setting is a very bad idea. This should be obvious, but evidently it isn’t. So many throughout church history have hazarded predictions concerning the date of our Lord’s Second Coming. This is despite His warning that no one knows when He will return (Mark 13:32).

We need to recognize that our cultural context can affect our eschatology more than we might want to admit. There are reasons–cultural reasons–why the early Church was predominantly Premillennial, the Medieval Church was mainly Amillennial, the Puritan through Victorian eras were mostly Postmillennial, and now the Modern era has seen a resurgence of Premillennialism. Christians of each era tended to interpret Bible prophecy through the lens of their respective milieu. We must strive to hold the Bible as the final authority in our theology. One way to move towards that goal is to be aware just how much our environment can affect our viewpoints.

Regardless of which trajectory history takes, we are to remain faithful to Christ and the gospel. Postmillennialism predicts that the arrow will go up; Premillennialism predicts that it will go down; while Amillennialism says that it will stay pretty much the same. Whichever direction humanity goes (I’m in the Premillennial camp), let’s stay on mission.

This blog was cross-posted at www.theologyforthechurch.com

In Case You Missed It

Aaron Earls posted earlier this week at his personal blog, The Wardrobe Door, discussing the trend of shocking headlines on social media. Aaron writes:

Look across Facebook and you can spot it—the virus that infects computer after computer. It’s passed from one person to the next through sharing a link or even liking a post.

The virus you may have caught and passed on through social media is fear. You see it in headlines across Facebook.

  • 7 Surprising Foods That Will Give You Cancer … And Make You Fat
  • Why This Politician Hates Puppies And Will Take Away All of Your Freedoms
  • 10 Steps to Protect Your Child From Their Inevitable Kidnapping
  • How You Will Lose All Your Money By Not Clicking This Link. No, Seriously, Click This Link!

A study of 100 top blogs found that headlines with violent words like “kill,” “dark,” “bleeding,” and yes, “fear,” get more social media shares. Headlines that focus on negative superlatives—like never or worst—are more effective than either headlines without superlatives or ones with positive words. We share negative stories cast in terms of what we should fear, but why is that?

At Canon and Culture, Bruce Ashford discussed the religious problem with Socialism. Dr. Ashford writes:

Socialism is a polarizing notion globally, and especially so in the United States. So it was, to say the least, surprising when Bernie Sanders decided to run for President openly as a “Democratic socialist.” It is even more surprising to find him—even in the early days of the primary season—in a relatively close race with Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. After all, many Americans view socialism as an evil that will ruin the economy and perhaps lead to an authoritarian government.

There are a number of reasons that some Americans are willing to give Sanders a shot. Perhaps the foremost reason is that he actually views himself as a “socialist capitalist,” a notion which most socialists would consider a contradiction in terms. But there are, in fact, a number of varieties of socialism. Each variety emphasizes material equality and communal property ownership, but each does so in its own way.

Nathan Finn published an article at Crossway discussing what Star Wars can teach us about history:

A Long Time Ago, In a Galaxy Far, Far Away . . .
Ever since the original Star Wars movie opened in theaters in 1977, the words mentioned above have been a part of American popular culture. Each of the live-action movies in the Star Wars franchise that have been released thus far begin with these words set against a black screen. Cue the famous theme song by composer John Williams. Once the music begins, a short summary of the backstory leading up to the film scrolls upward across the screen. Once the prologue is completed, the movie begins. I get chill bumps every time I sit in a theater and the opening words appear on the screen; even my disappointment in the moribund second trilogy of movies could not take away this feeling of anticipation.

In a helpful article on historical thinking, Thomas Andrews and Flannery Burke suggest that the opening sequence in the Star Wars films reminds us of the importance of historical context. I believe it also offers another important reminder to historians. The past, while often open to scholarly study, took place a long time ago in a faraway place (if not another galaxy). Many historians emphasize this point by citing the famous opening line to L. P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” This is true even of the recent past. For this reason, historians must take into account matters of historical context when studying the past.

Keelan Cook shared a post at the People’s Next Door website titled: What exactly is urban? Keelan writes:

Cites are a hot topic nowadays. The world is officially more urban than rural, and it does not appear that is changing anytime soon. People are talking about cities. People are moving into cities. Cities are claiming an ever-growing chunk of society. And on this march into the concrete jungle, the word urban is getting tossed around like a frisbee.

City planners are talking about urbanization. Sociologists speak of urbanism. Not only is urban becoming an ism and an ation, as a adjective it is used to describe everything from a neighborhood to a pair of boots (I’m looking at you Urban Outfitters). But, despite all of this word-slinging, what does urban actually mean?

Chuck Lawless recently shared ten things he has learned about corporate worship. Dr. Lawless writes:

Almost 35 years ago, I began pastoring my first church. I remember planning worship services, typing the order of worship, and praying the worship would go well. Since then, I’ve realized how little I knew about corporate worship at the time. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about worship since then.