Sunday, 20 March 2016

The Basis of Hope, by Robert Brush

Robert Leon Brush, The Basis of Hope: A Grid for Evaluating Prophetic Assumptions,2005 Fundamental Wesleyan Publishers

These days Postmillennial eschatology is mostly confined to Reformed Calvinists. However, at one time Postmillennialism influenced a much broader segment of Protestantism. While Premillennialism made inroads into the Wesleyan-Holiness movement and the average Methodist today has no idea what she thinks about the Lord's Return, the Wesleyan movement was at one time strongly Postmillennial. In The Hope of the Gospel, Vic Reasoner attempted to revive the optimistic Postmillennialism of classic Wesleyanism. This book is a shorter adaptation of his work.

The Wesleyan movement has taught the possibility of entire sanctification and complete holiness before death. With such an optimism about God's grace it is unsurprising that Wesleyanism has historically favoured Postmillennialism, with it's hope of a world-wide conquest of the Gospel in this age. This book does depart from much classic Wesleyanism in taking the preterist, rather than the historicist view of prophetic texts such as Matthew 24 and the Apocalypse.

Brush summarises the Postmillennial eschatology in ten key points:

1. Jesus Christ is the central theme of Bible prophecy.
2. Christ conquered Satan at the cross and established His kingdom.
3. Christ's kingdom will overcome the kingdom of Satan and exercise world-wide dominion.
4. Christ will remain at the right hand of the Father until all enemies are put under His feet.
5. Christ will come to raise all the dead and to judge the whole world.
6. No one can get saved after the return of Christ.
7. No one can enter Christ's kingdom except through saving faith in His atoning work.
8. God has not unconditionally selected any race or group of people.
9. Christ is coming after a holy, not a defeated Church.
10. Christians are to live by faith in the victory of the cross and in hope of world revival.

Catholics would affirm 1, 2, 4, 5, 6. I won't go into whether Catholics believe in 7, as that is a completely different and very complex subject. Catholics would historically tend to affirm 8, but there is a tendency since Vatican II to see God's covenant with Israel as having some kind of permanent status. 3, 9, 10 are themes that can be found in Catholic thought, but they run counter to a tendency to a more pessimistic eschatology. In Catholicism there is a tension between the idea of a victorious Church and a preference for a pessimistic futurist eschatology. There are some Catholics who take a more preterist view of the prophetic texts, so I think it would be possible to develop a species of Catholic Postmillennial eschatology.

The Basis of Hope is a very readable and concise introduction to the Postmillennial view, despite coming from a different ecclesiastical quarter to most Postmillennialism today.

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