I was reminded yesterday of how discouraging a role premillennial eschatology plays in Christian pessimism and defeatism in this world—and how prevalent a force this is in the continuing Christian Right.
In a thread lamenting something so marginal (in the big picture) as the political defeat of Ken Cuccinelli, a woman actually tried to console the complainer by arguing that things are supposed to get worse and worse. Here’s what she posted:
Just Remember that at the end of the day we as Christians are all seeing the sign of the end times! God gives man free will and the people of the world all want to do and be what is popular with man instead of what is Gods desire and word to be honored! . . . We can all hold to the truth that our Lord will return and as stated every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord! My prayer is no one is left behind, but I a[m] afraid as the world keeps pushing him out thing are only getting worse!
Let me interpret this for you: “Losing is OK, because we’re supposed to lose!”
We could address the issue of Arminianism and free will, as well, but for now just focus on the “end times” pessimism. A political loss for a conservative and the rise of a corrupt liberal to a gubernatorial office is said to be a “sign of the end times!” That is, a defeat in history for conservatism—and by extension, Christian values—is the way history is supposed to progress according to God’s plan.
But don’t worry, we’ll be raptured out and the bad guys will be squashed . . . when Jesus returns.
This is the prevailing evangelical eschatology. It is historical defeatism. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And it is wrong. I have written a longer more detailed essay on it here.
The discouraging fact is that this eschatology permeates the Christian Right and dominates the outlook of many Christian political activists. What does it say about their political activism? It says one thing: it says they are in this thing for the express purpose of losing it. Their eschatological outlook can mean nothing else.
It means the Christian Right enters the political game expecting to lose. They expect to lose the pro-life cause. They expect to lose the marriage fight. They expect to lose all our freedoms and biblical values in society. They expect to lose private property and free enterprise. They expect to lose the second amendment. They expect to lose the tenth amendment. They expect to lose the first amendment.
All of the shocking headlines on FOX that reveal gradual realizations of such things are not meant to be motivational in regard to actually doing something about them. They are only confirmatory of their eschatological expectations.
Even if they do not articulate these expectations, and would probably deny them when confronted, the eschatology dictates them. The logic is inescapable, and as far as these people truly believe in “worse and worse” history and rapture escapism, the psychological effects will be inescapable, too.
Among the many detrimental effects, one of the most important is the lack of any viable and principled plan to win. If winning is not on the table, then there will be no vision of what victory looks like, and certainly no strategy or tactics to achieve it. There will also be no willingness to sacrifice for such a plan. There is only waiting and praising our losses until Jesus comes back. This is bad news.
The good news is that premillennial defeatism is demonstrably wrong. Anyone who studies the simple use of Psalm 110:1 by the New Testament writers will be forced to conclude Jesus is currently enthroned, has all power in heaven and in earth, and that He shall not leave that heavenly throne until all His enemies are under His feet. This means that He will not return until that work is completed, and when He returns, there will be no more enemies.
This means that Christian defeatism is at odds with biblical eschatology. It means bad eschatology is one of those enemies—an intellectual one, but an enemy nonetheless. But this means that a huge part of the work to be done is to make a footstool out of bad eschatology. Dispensational defeatism must itself be defeated in time and in history.
Until this is done on a substantial scale, the Christian Right will not only continue to be the irrelevant and unproductive loser that it has been for a generation, it is actually a detriment and a drag to the progress of the kingdom.
Yes, eschatology matters. If you’re not in it to win it, then why are you there? Be biblically optimistic and have a plan, or get out of the way. You’re blocking up the doorway for people who do.