Apologetics war

Published on April 13th, 2011 | by Bojidar Marinov

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The Logical Fallacy “Tribulations vs. Victory”

Victory Requires Tribulation.

“Can’t agree with that. While we will overcome in the end, Scripture is very clear that in this world we will have tribulation, and Satan is working to bring about his own end to things.”

A friend of mine forwarded this to me. It is a response to my article previous week, “The True and the False New World Order.”

Those of us who have actively preached and defended postmillennialism – that is, an optimistic eschatology concerning the victory of the Gospel in history and on earth, have encountered this argument many times from the escapists in the church, that is from amillennialists and premillennialists. “You can’t have victory,” say the escapists, “because the Bible says in 2 Tim. 3:12 that all that desire to live godly life will be persecuted. The postmillennial hope is misplaced; we can not be victorious over nations, cultures, and powers.” Some theologians even dress their historical pessimism in poetic words: “The church is in a constant exile by the rivers of Babylon,” says one very influential theologian, “We can not hope for more but mourn and expect the day when God will return us home.” The nations will not submit to Christ and His Gospel, is the conclusion of the escapists, because Christians will suffer tribulations and persecutions. Victory in history is impossible.

I always considered it strange that such argument would be the most cherished argument by the pessimists. It is obviously fallacious. It is misunderstanding of terms. It is based on wrong definitions.

To start with, “tribulations” is not opposite to “victory,” neither does it contradict “victory.” There is no law of logic, and there is no definition of these terms that opposes them. Plain common sense tells us they are compatible. Let’s look at one of the most important political speeches of the 20th century, the first speech of Sir Winston Churchill as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. One of the most widely quoted paragraphs of Churchill’s speech was the following:

I would say to the House as I said to those who have joined this government: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering.

“Nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” And then, “we have before us . . . struggle and suffering.” By the logic of the amillennial and premillennial theologians, Churchill was saying that Great Britain can’t win the war against Germany. If “tribulation” meant “no victory,” Churchill must have been telling the people of Britain that he foresees no victory but only defeat in history. If we accept the logic of the email above, Churchill must have been saying that Hitler would have his way.

And yet, the very next paragraph of Churchill’s speech talked about victory:

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs — Victory in spite of all terror — Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

Could Churchill really say that he had nothing to offer but suffering, and then in the next paragraph promise victory in history? Yes, he could. Because in God’s world, it is a principle that any victory that is worth the name requires “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” The Allies achieved victory over Nazi Germany, and they had to go through suffering and tribulation to achieve it. No one could accuse Churchill in contradicting himself; everyone – including premillennial and amillennial theologians – knows that victory requires suffering, and therefore Churchill was correct.

That is exactly what postmillennialism believes about the victory of the Gospel. History will see the progressive triumph of the Gospel not only over individuals, families and churches, but also over nations, cultures, and governments. Nation after nation will submit to Christ; they will change their customs, mores, and legal systems to reflect the Law of God. More and more the Gospel will change the hearts of men but also their institutions and their societies; more and more the Biblical worldview will become the operational worldview for the powers and authorities in the land. The church will experience its ups and downs, but the Word of God preached to individuals and societies will never return empty to God.

And this process of conquering the world, of course, won’t be an easy walk. Just like the “blood, toil, tears, and sweat” Churchill promised his compatriots, Christ promised us the same in our march to victory in history. Our victory in history will have it’s price; like Paul said about himself in Col. 1:24, “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.” To say that Christ won his victory on the Cross by inadequate afflictions that Paul had to contribute to would be preposterous; Paul was saying that he had his own price to pay for his own victory, and for the victory of the Church in history. In the same way John says in Revelation that he is our “brother and fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance,” indicating that being partaker of a kingdom and of tribulation is not a contradiction. Victory in history will come through tribulation; but it will come, gradually. Our tribulations are our price to pay for our victory; we are not suffering and toiling in vain for something we will never achieve, waiting for the final day. Our tribulations are part of the fight for achieving in history, through the work of the Spirit, what Christ commanded in the Great Commission: to disciple the nations and teach them to obey.

An even more interesting aspect of the escapist’s argument is that the escapist criticizes the cultural “activism” of the postmillennialist, and expects his own passivity to result in “tribulations.” The postmillennialist’s active challenge against the world system, against the culture, and against the principalities and powers, believes the escapist, won’t result in more attacks from the enemies of God, and therefore in more tribulations and persecutions. The escapist believes his own activity limited to the personal righteousness of the believers would bring heavier persecutions on him than the comprehensive challenge of the postmillennialist.

But how can that be true? Let’s take two persons who approach our house. One looks harmless, he isn’t armed, minds his own business, and apparently only passes by, not even looking at your house. The other one is armed to the teeth, heads directly to the house, kicks the garden gate, and by everything he does he shows that his goal is to attack your house and break in. As the owner of the house, who of the two would you try to shoot and stop? Being attacked by a determined enemy, would you spend time and bullets shooting at a person whose intentions are obviously not aggressive? Wouldn’t you consider the attacker much more worthy of your attention?

In the same way, why would the world system feel threatened by those Christians who openly say they have no intentions to challenge it, threaten it, or overcome it? The escapist is just a harmless passer-by as far as the world system is concerned. Why would an anti-Christian ruler want to persecute those who pose no challenge to his authority? After all, even the Roman Senate was considering adding Jesus Christ to their Pantheon, as long as Christians acknowledged the divinity of the Emperor. And even today, anti-Christian politicians in the US and abroad gladly use Christians and churches who do not challenge the unbelievers’ cultural, social, and political agenda. And why not? Any Christian or church who doesn’t challenge the world system or believes that it shouldn’t be challenged is in fact acknowledging the legitimacy of that world system. Their position won’t result in persecutions; they will rather be employed to serve the pagan state.

The true persecutions come when Christians and churches do challenge the world system, and do declare that “there is another king, one Jesus.” Postmillennialists then would be viewed by the  pagan political establishment as an armed man who breaks into their house; he is worth the effort and the bullets to be stopped, neutralized, or even killed. If a person preaches that a complete change is needed, and they truly believe it is coming, and they work for it, those with vested interests in keeping the status quo will also have interest in fighting back. And it is exactly that fighting back of the world system that produces the tribulations. Christians are and have always been persecuted because of the threat they were to the cultural, religious, and political establishment. A Christian who is simply keeping his faith personal and individual, limited to his own soul or family, doesn’t have to fear persecutions.

Very often escapist theologians point to the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:35-38 and claim that their experience is what we should expect today. Just like the Old Testament believers, our faith will be tested in sufferings, trials, persecutions, and may be even death in the hands of our enemies. What is very often overlooked by those same escapist theologians is that the Old Testament believers were not escapists; they did apply their faith to their culture and society, and they did challenge the world system comprehensively, as is witnessed by the verses immediately preceding that:

. . . who by faith conquered kingdoms, dispensed justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight (vv.33-34).

No wonder they were persecuted. They were dangerous; the persecutions were the world system’s way of fighting back. If these men were out there to conquer kingdoms and dispense justice, we should expect those kingdoms and their legal systems of injustice and wickedness to defend themselves. No one defends themselves from those who do not attack them.

We know that at least two avowed postmillennialists were among the leading voices in the First Ecumenical Council of the church in Nicaea in AD 325: Eusebius of Caesarea and Athanasius of Alexandria (at the time only a personal secretary of the Bishop of Alexandria). Given the fact that the Council was an unashamedly public display of the cultural and political victory of Christianity to the Roman Empire, we can safely assume that all the other bishops present had an optimistic view of the victory of the Gospel in history – or they wouldn’t be present in the first place. And yet, we know from history that all these bishops have been through some of the worst persecutions – many of them were missing limbs or eyes, disfigured from being burned or scalded or branded with hot iron. There was a reason why the pagan Roman Empire would persecute them: they believed in victory, in history, on earth. They were dangerous. At the end, they won, and the Empire submitted.

One of the most telling examples of the history of the Reformation is John Foxe, the author of the Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. A very irenic and shy person, one who even criticized his close friend John Knox for his “rude vehemency” against Mary, Queen of Scots, Foxe believed more than anyone in his time that martyrdom is what sanctified the church and the Christian’s life. And yet, he believed in victory for the Gospel in history, and he even defended the rights of the French Huguenots to defend themselves by the force of arms. Foxe understood that martyrdom comes to those who actively challenge the system of the world, not to those who keep their faith personal and individual. The Puritans in the generations after Foxe kept the same view: being postmillenial, they believed in victory, they fought for it, and they knew they were going to be persecuted for it. And the Puritans were persecuted exactly because they were a threat to the cultural and political establishment, not because they withdrew from challenging the culture.

Therefore, the argument in the letter quoted above is fallacious. There is no contradiction between victory in history and tribulations in history. Quite the opposite, victory only comes through tribulations. Those that do not believe in victory in history, do not believe in tribulations either, because they are a not a threat to the world system. Only postmillennialists have the true Biblical theology of suffering and tribulations because only postmillennialists have theology and practice that present a true challenge to the world. Escapists – that is, amillennialists and premillennialists – only talk about tribulations but in reality they agree with the unbelievers that the culture, the society, and the political power must remain anti-Christian. The contradiction “victory vs. tribulations” is a logical fallacy.

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About the Author

A Reformed missionary to his native Bulgaria for over 10 years, Bojidar preaches and teaches doctrines of the Reformation and a comprehensive Biblical worldview. Having founded Bulgarian Reformation Ministries in 2001, he and his team have translated over 30,000 pages of Christian literature about the application of the Law of God in every area of man’s life and society, and published those translations online for free. He has been active in the formation of the Libertarian movement in Bulgaria, a co-founder of the Bulgarian Society for Individual Liberty and its first chairman. If you would like Bojidar to speak to your church, homeschool group or other organization, contact him through his website: http://www.bulgarianreformation.org/



12 Responses to The Logical Fallacy “Tribulations vs. Victory”

  1. Old Soldier says:

    quote: “Don Confalone says:
    April 16, 2011 at 9:46 pm
    “At the end, they won, and the Empire submitted.” So the Roman Empire submitted to Jesus? How did this manifest itself in the day to day workings of that empire. I’ve heard that Constantine used the bishops to set a certain belief system so God would be on his side to conquer other nations. This cannot be a victory of Jesus, it was short lived and not much changed in the oppressive working of empires. This is just what I was taught. The empire did not submitt to Jesus, just used him to legitimize his brutal desires. Whado you think?

    What I think is you need to read some history. Yes the Empire did submit and became a Christian empire for 1000 years and it was only until it toyed with humanism (not just in religion but in finances such as getting rid of the gold standard) that it started to weaken.

    The ‘day to day’ workings of the empire changed DRASTICALLY for one thing it was illegal to persecute christians and they stopped throwing them into the lions den. Hows that for starters as to how ‘day to day workings’ changed?
    Secondly when the Byzantine Empire starteed to grow Justinian formed his Law Code which is STILL used today in the deep structure of common law to ensure rights of common people. Christianity became the mainstream not paganism.
    Of course it was far from being perfect. We are not talking about the New Jerusalem here but about imperfect christian postmill growth in time. The point is the height of the christian experience is not being thrown into the lions den but going beyond that until you make the government itself your own and outlaw the lions den.

  2. Harmon Gottlieb says:

    The fabrication of a “Tribulations vs. Victory” logical fallacy arises from the need to preserve Post-Millennialism’s blind “optimism” from the inexorable “pessimism” that endures into the closing verses of the Revelation: “For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie (Revelation 22:15).”

    Bojidar’s temporally amorphous optimism of hard works is a gradualistic version of “prophetic inevitability” that considers the current disintegration of global civilization to be a transitory event. He has risen above the Gospel of ‘personal salvation alone’ to pursue an un-truncated ‘gospel’ of administrative dominion. The piecemeal christianization of all human institutions will be accomplished, supposedly, in preparation for the day when “the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).”

    Noah was “a preacher of righteousness” to an ungodly, disobedient world that perished. Hebrews 11:7 says of him, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Noah, with his negative view of the future and his fear-driven, family-only preparation for a universal obliteration of all wicked institutions, fits the description of a Marinov “escapist.”

    The Recontructionist ‘hope’ of institutional resuscitation, however, comes to nothing in light of the Lord Jesus’ prophetic words, “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all (Luke 17:26).”

    The victory Christ Jesus won for His elect at the cross was complete, final and, in our present day, it continues, by the power of the Holy Spirit of God, to add souls to His Body, the Church: “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinth. 15:57).” This is a rebuke to the spiritual defeatism implicit in the world-working ideology of Post-millennial Reconstructionism.

    The meditation upon “the last days” in 2 Peter 3 speaks of the heavens and the earth being “reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (v.7),” and proclaims the vibrant Christian hope, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness (v.13).”

    This is, obviously, not a dead-end expression of “escapist” defeat, but neither is it a cryptic call for earthbound cultures to work out their own salvation. Like Revelation 22, the passage recognizes the persistence of “this present evil world,” but comes to rest in the glorious Person of Christ, “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen (vs. 17,18).”

  3. Don Confalone says:

    “At the end, they won, and the Empire submitted.” So the Roman Empire submitted to Jesus? How did this manifest itself in the day to day workings of that empire. I’ve heard that Constantine used the bishops to set a certain belief system so God would be on his side to conquer other nations. This cannot be a victory of Jesus, it was short lived and not much changed in the oppressive working of empires. This is just what I was taught. The empire did not submitt to Jesus, just used him to legitimize his brutal desires. Whado you think?

  4. Meredith_in_Aus says:

    Excellent article.

  5. alex alexander says:

    Bojidar,
    How do you do it?
    Your quote from Churchill (whom you respectfully call “Sir”) is very apt.
    You have quoted one of the greatest rhetorical statements ever penned in the English language. Churchill was a master rhetorician. In 39 words (count them) he carefully and deliberately used the word “victory” FIVE times. The first two follow one right after the other. Then, after another three words… “victory”; after another five words… “victory”; and after ten more… “victory”.
    Was he trying to tell us something?
    Could it be “VICTORY!”?
    And you write:
    “That is exactly what postmillennialism believes about the victory of the Gospel. History will see the progressive triumph of the Gospel not only over individuals, families and churches, but also over nations, cultures, and governments. Nation after nation will submit to Christ; they will change their customs, mores, and legal systems to reflect the Law of God. More and more the Gospel will change the hearts of men but also their institutions and their societies; more and more the Biblical worldview will become the operational worldview for the powers and authorities in the land. The church will experience its ups and downs, but the Word of God preached to individuals and societies will never return empty to God.”
    The word “will” occurs seven times.
    “Will” = historical, biblical, inevitable victory.
    Amen, brother!
    Not quite Churchillian; but pretty good…
    (And absolutely breathtaking for a Bulgarian brother. I can’t even say “yes”, “no”, or “hello” in your mother language!)
    Alex A
    UK

  6. E Harris says:

    I sense 2 strains of thought in this one article: one strain is advocating for the Council of Nicaea and it’s framework of church and state interaction.

    The other stream of thought is advocating for the martyrs who were persecuted, dragged before the authorities, and were killed for their testimony.

    These are two DISTINCT ways of witness. One is top-down and statist and formally organized. The other is freedom-loving, and willing to endure persecution. Would you say that the early martyrs just were unfortunate because there weren’t enough christians alive, to organize a forum, and march to Rome, and make Caesar hear them??

    I don’t think that the martyrs were dying in protest, as underlings, looking for the chance to have a Council of Nicaea. (Enough human organization to topple Caesar.) They were dying for their witness of the truth. The truth was that the Proper World Order had already arrived: Jesus Christ. He was the Head, He was the King, He is the One.

    It’s quite simple: we don’t worship the Beast or it’s image. OR even it’s imaging campaigns (such as Nicaea). We worship CHRIST, a personal man who lived perfectly and died for our sins, and rose triumphant – defeating all the things that the state tries to intimidate us with!! The answer isn’t corporate (in a man-made, traditional, or institutional sense). The answer is Jesus, in people’s hearts. That cannot be taught… it must be believed in. And it doesn’t get believed in by someone cozying up to caesar and saying that Jesus is what the empire believes. As great as it is whenever a Napoleon or a Nebuchadnezzar testifies to the one true God, we don’t believe in Jesus because they’re the triumphant kings. We believe in Jesus because the power of their PERSONAL testimony (as intelligent men) rings TRUE with US!

    • E Harris says:

      We suffer for the message of the Gospel, and Who Jesus Is. We do not (rightfully) suffer for “an order” that is NOT based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The problem is, when Jesus becomes popular enough in a population to make it LOOK like the statist order (the sword-bearing entity lording it over SPEECH) is the christian order. That type of order does not truly depend on Jesus’ power. But on man’s.

  7. E Harris says:

    I liked the article, but I am somewhat divided between the two camps. I am still trying to figure it out. Something is wrong, not just in the way that both camps perceive victory, but in the SHAPE of the battle. The battle effort (what is fought over) will determine the shape of the outcome that we fight for – the “victory” that we envision.

    Too much of our thinking has been clouded by the Council of Nicaea (which most of the bishops who were invited didn’t even attend). At Nicaea, the church via its false representatives (a politically-minded ruling class of bishops) was forced into an open alliance with the state/sword. Not only an alliance, but an allegiance of sorts, which placed the church people BENEATH the power of the sword rather than above it. Ideas became fodder for persecution, rather than (as it should always be) actual violent crimes and crimes of theft. The church (people) have always been ABOVE the realm of the civil magistrate, not beneath. People who are violent are BY NATURE beneath the level of the sword – and they know it (that is why they get so upset, and raise their fist). Churchmen are not as easy to agitate. We are not political (at heart). Our message is OVER politics, not beneath it. It is the message that counts, and persecutions only serve to spread the message FASTER. So whether we prosper materially or not – it doesn’t matter. What matters is the spread of the message, and the CLARITY of the message. The message will overwhelm all heathen systems, and convert them, as PEOPLE believe.

    Our weapons are not physical. Ancient Israel sure did use physical weapons, at the command of God. But, post-Nebuchadnezzar, the church has not been authorized to take up the sword or to dwell on a level that is beneath the sword. We were to pray for peace of Babylon…AND to ADVISE them, when they ask. Otherwise, we are (like Daniel and Jesus and Paul) to continue to offer personal advise (and sermons) to people who want it & ask for it (including the civil magistrates). We don’t walk under their system. We walk around, through, and above their petty systems. We have a power in the Spirit, accessible through faith in the truth… that they simply do not understand or possess. In wealth, we spread the message. In times of misery, our testimony shines brighter.

    I am not defeatist. But we are in a different kind of warfare…which actually (in my opinion) helps to CLARIFY the battle lines a little bit better. After all, we don’t WANT to have a big-state-solution, and simply grapple over who has the largest voice in the state & what it does! It is the regular Republicans who have become statist and complacent. They think that their mission is simply to “manage things better” because they are the “good guys” … well, because they’re the good guys. So let the Dems be the bad guys and expand government, but we’ll be the good guys and keep all of that money and “power” and just use it OUR way. Now I know, Bojidar, that you would not agree with this. But this is where your style of reasoning has consistently taken American politics – especially in the Republican Party. It leads to forming an alliance with Big Government, and telling it HOW to use it’s sword, WHILE ACKNOWLEDGING that it has the authority to police thought, the gospel, and whose gospel is preached. In other words, most Americans have consistently maintained that all of their activities dwell UNDER the civil magistrate. That was, in fact, the SHAPE of the Council of Nicaea. Just because some of the bishops raised their fist toward the emperor, and kept some of their doctrines, didn’t mean much. They were raising their fist BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT THAT THE MAN CAESAR WAS ABOVE THEM. Otherwise, they would have simply ignored Caesar, endured the persecutions, and gone on with their lives of spreading the message.

    But no. Instead, the “christians” decided to consolidate the message, and try to spread it empire-wide, using the backing of the sword. Father forgive us, for sometimes we don’t know what we are doing.

    No. Our vision is ALTOGETHER different. Christ HAS set us free. The world should fear us, because our message is converting people…not because they fear a violent uprising to stop their violence. As we mature as Christians, we will understand this better and better. Right now, Dispensationalism has blinded people from even thinking properly about strategic victory. Postmillenialism teaches victory, but even STILL uses the word “progressive”… which … I have to say, it used over a hundred years ago when it placed a little more confidence in the state to establish righteousness on earth.

    The battle lines (the proper SHAPE of society) need to be fought for… DIRECTLY. It’s not a matter of dismantling a large state apparatus. It is a matter of doing what we should do, speaking how we should speak, walking as we should walk, and allow the power of GOD to MAKE the state either surrender to us or collapse on its own. We need to move on: how WOULD we rebuild the ideal society, assuming that there were no national governments ANYWHERE? What would our ideal lifestyle LOOK LIKE? As much as is possible, we should spread our message, peacefully.

    About this: “Given the fact that the Council was an unashamedly public display of the cultural and political victory of Christianity to the Roman Empire”. No. It was an unashamed public display of church men who were willing to allow themselves to be USED, as political pawns, to aid the state in regrouping itself. That was fine. But it didn’t stop there. It preserved Caesar’s authority (the authority of the sword) not only over acts of injustice, but acts of THOUGHT and GATHERING. It’s intention was to police THOUGHT. Now, instead of Constantine getting his way with everything, the political bishops (who showed up there) were the ones who got more of what they wanted…and enlisted political authority as an aid to PHYSICALLY POLICE (and tax) people’s THOUGHT. It was NOT a christian approach!!

    Paul did not advocate this. He was not campaigning for this.

    I don’t know if my reasoning makes me borderline Amish… but I am believing more and more… that Christians can advise the state when asked (such as voting). Beyond that Christians should witness about Jesus Christ. Not (primarily) about social causes or morality-for-it’s-own-sake, because that lifts up the sword. We should witness about obedience to God out of a personal relationship TO God, and all of the fulfillment that it brings. And we should show this fulfillment, by our lifestyles.

    Most christians throughout history have been social-statists, this whole time.

  8. Vicki says:

    This is a very inspiring article. Thank you.

  9. Charles Johnson says:

    Bojidar,

    That was another good article. I particularly liked the Churchill analogy – very well chosen for the purpose. You are truly a “Son of Issachar.”

    Blessings,

  10. john cummins says:

    It’s amazing to me it takes a Bulgarian to understand America and the Puritans and victory, but there it is!

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