Saturday, 26 March 2016

The Reduction of Christianity, by Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart

Gary DeMar and Peter Leithart, The Reduction of Christianity: Dave Hunt's Theology of Cultural Surrender,1988 American Vision, Atlanta

In the 1980s, the Protestant fundamentalist apologist, Dave Hunt, wrote a book entitled The Seduction of Christianity, followed by a sequel entitled Beyond Seduction. The main target of this book was the Word-Faith movement and its heterodox teachings. Some of the criticisms made in this book were sound, but on the whole it was dreadfully sensationalized. Hunt claimed that the aberrations of the Word-Faith teachers and Prosperity Gospellers were part of a New Age conspiracy to corrupt Christianity. Back then, the New Age was big news and fundamentalists were obsessed with it. Some fundamentalists have not moved on and are still convinced of a New Age conspiracy, but in reality the New Age is a bit of a joke. There are still people interested in New Age ideas, but most people would regard them as cranks. They also tend to be older people. Young people these days might do the odd Ouija board, but by and large they are materialistic and atheistic in their outlook. Young people are seldom seeking the 'alternative spirituality' that the New Age once provided.

Attacking the Word-Faith teachers, Dave Hunt referred to Dominion Theology. Under this umbrella he attacked both Charismatic Kingdom Now teachers who expected a Holy Ghost revival that would shake the world and the more level-headed Theonomic Reconstructionists, a form of Postmillennialism that viewed the Mosaic civil law as a blueprint for transforming society. This book is a response to Dave Hunt's views, offering both a polemic against his Dispensational Premillennialism and a defense of Theonomy and Postmillennialism.

There is a sense here that Leithart and DeMar were capitalizing on a popular and well known writer to get some publicity for an obscure viewpoint. There is even an appendix offering a list of Theonomic books that the beginner ought to read next. Nevertheless, however cheeky this might be, the result is a very interesting and enjoyable introduction to Theonomic Reconstructionist Postmillennialism. Along the way, DeMar and Leithart tear Dave Hunt's ideas to shreds, yet they do it in a remarkably polite and respectful way. They accuse him, along with most other Premillennialists, of giving up on the task of reforming and seeking to influence society.

Another Theonomic writer, Gary North, wrote the foreword. He makes an interesting point that had never occurred to me before. He points out that Dispensationalists like Dave Hunt affirm that Satan has a kingdom, after all Our Lord said so Himself (Matthew 12:26). Yet Satan does not rule through being present on Earth, but through human representatives. Despite allowing that Satan rules his kingdom through human representatives, the Dispensationalists insist that Christ must be physically present for His Kingdom to be in operation. The Postmillennialist in contrast, argues that Christ's Kingdom works through the representation of men and women on Earth. Just as the unbelieving are tools of Satan to corrupt to society, those who belong to Christ's Kingdom must work to influence and transform it. Gary DeMar and Leithart go on to talk about the necessity of building a Christian civilization. They acknowledge that this will take time, but through the work of evangelism, the Kingdom of God will grow, making this possible.

I like the fact that the authors spend a lot of time talking about church history (Peter Leithart more recently wrote an excellent biography of St. Constantine). They use history to illustrate how Christians have been able to influence society, particularly the United States. They also talk about the Church Fathers, particularly Athanasius, who does seem to have been an early exponent of the Postmillennial view.

This is one of the most enjoyable Postmillennial books I have read.

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