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Jan Markell’s article “Kingdom Now: We’re Not Returning to Eden,” which appears on the Christian Worldview Network website, is one of the worst uninformed hit pieces I have ever read. It gets nearly everything wrong. I don’t have a problem with thoughtful, accurate, and well researched articles dealing with disagreements over theological issues, but I do have a problem with someone who refuses to study the subject and makes outlandish assertions.
In 1988, Peter J. Leithart and I answered many of Markell’s objections in our book The Reduction of Christianity: A Biblical Response to Dave Hunt. It originally carried the subtitle Dave Hunt’s Theology of Cultural Surrender, a description that fits Markell’s worldview, or lack thereof, like a glove. For years I have pointed out that eschatology matters. What you believe about the future will determine how you will live in the present. Not only is Markell’s eschatology unbiblical; it’s dangerous.
Markell asserts that if you don’t believe her view of the end times—“the world is a sinking Titanic ripe for judgment”—then you must believe in the perfectibility of the human race through the agency of man. If you are not a dispensationalist, then you believe that the church can “make the world perfect for our Lord’s return.” Where does she get this nonsense? Who is teaching this stuff other than Hugo Chavez who claims if you “want to build heaven here on earth . . . follow socialism”? Markell is under the strange assumption that if the Bible is applied to economics, politics, education, law, science, and every other facet of life that this is somehow an end-time deception. Where does she think we would be today if Christians had not applied the Bible to these areas in the past?
To show how uninformed she is, Markell equates Reconstructionism with the views of Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo who are far closer in economic ideology to Chavez than to R. J. Rushdoony, Gary North, and David Chilton. She is so far off the mark on this one that it’s laughable. Even Wallis and Campolo would laugh at the association. Obviously she did not hear my radio debate with Wallis or read David Chilton’s Productive Christians in an Age of Guilt Manipulators or any of Gary North’s Economic Commentaries on the Bible or my three-volume God and Government series. Equating Reconstructionism with “liberation theology” is preposterous, and anyone who knows anything about either position is aware of the stark differences between the two positions.
To really muddy the waters and confuse her readers, Markell writes that “this theology is borne out of the Manifest Sons of God movement and Latter Rain movement in about 1948.” Reconstructionist views are rooted in Reformed theology which has a very long and respected theological history. And if we’re going to look at long histories in support for a position, then she needs to explain the relative recent history of dispensationalism. Once again, Markell demonstrates that she has not done her homework.
Her understanding of preterism is equally flawed. Preterism, the belief that the majority of NT prophecies have already been fulfilled, certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the Manifest Sons of God and the Latter Rain movement. Preterist interpretations have been around since the first century as Francis X. Gumerlock and I demonstrate in The Early Church and the End of the World. Prior to the advent of dispensationalism, Bible commentators applied the fulfillment of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) to the events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. This includes Henry Hammond, John Lightfoot, Philip Doddridge, Thomas Newton, John Gill, Thomas Scott, Adam Clark, and scores of others as I point out in my book Is Jesus Coming Soon? Is Markell ready to say that all these men were engaged in “false teachings”? She would have to write off nearly two thousand years of biblical interpretation in order to maintain her thesis.
She calls her view of Bible prophecy “traditional.” How can this be when dispensationalism is an eighteenth-century invention that didn’t gain acceptance until the publication of the first edition of The Scofield Reference Bible in 1909? If it hadn’t been for the notes, no one would have ever become a dispensationalist. Dispensationalism is the doctrine of a single man. Preterism, the belief that when “soon,” “near,” “quickly,” “at hand,” and “this generation” are used in prophetic passages they should be interpreted like they are interpreted in every other place in Scripture, is a self-evident biblical position. Every person who reads the gospels for the first time comes away with the idea that, for example, Matthew 10:23, Matthew 16: 27–28, and Matthew 24:34 are describing events that were on the prophetic horizon for those who first heard them come out of Jesus’ mouth. Dispensationalists and other futurists have to use exegetical gymnastics to get them to mean something else.
Pick up any Bible commentary that addresses these passages, and you will see that I’m right. Henry Morris offers the following interpretation of Matthew 24:34: “In this striking prophecy, the words ‘this generation’ has the emphasis of ‘that generation.’” Jesus used “this,” but Morris says He really meant “that.” This is interpretive double talk. “This” is a near demonstrative that refers to something that is near. If Jesus meant “that,” then He would have used “that.” There’s much more I could say on this and the other prophetic issues Markell raises, but it would make this article much too long. I’ll come back to it at another time.