For a while now, I have been a grateful beneficiary of Apologia Studios, and all of the Canon Stuff that’s being generated from Moscow, ID. This isn’t hard to imagine, since Jeff Durbin and Doug Wilson are, like me, proud Vantilians. Interestingly enough, I was introduced to presuppositional apologetics accidentally by C.S. Lewis (yes, I know Lewis wasn’t a presuppositionalist, but he sure wrote like it from time to time), and my presuppositionalism was solidified by Doug Wilson in his exchanges with Hitchens; both in the little book Is Christianity Good for the World and in the documentary that book triggered Collision. FYI, Wilson just recently finished another documentary called The Free Speech Apocalypse, which I (seriously) cannot recommend enough.
In addition to his affinity for Van Til, Wilson has my admiration for his wordsmithing. The man can write. And apparently, it’s all in the genes; I have never read a piece by his daughter, Rebekah Merkle that has failed to leave me teary eyed (from laughter, actually), and Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, which was written by his Son, N.D. Wilson, is most certainly one of the top five most influential books of my life (something I sing about in my review of Joe Rigney’s The Things of Earth, which acted as a major theological compliment to Tilt-A-Whirl). And Durbin also offers me something more than a fellow appreciation for Van Til; namely his active, triumphant, zealous, reformed, evangelistic activity. This is significant because a major part of my spiritual development as a teenager was street evangelism. Of course, this was before I became a calvinist, so it was the Ray Comfort-esque, finneyistic, manipulative, frightened-to-death-because-if-I-mess-up-this-presentation-you’re-screwed kind of evangelism; and after I became a calvinist, I assumed that street evangelism was no longer a feasible possibility. So needless to say, Durbin and his crew have been a breath of fresh air.
So you get the point; I’m thankful for these guys. I want to live like them. Like Wilson, I want to see the culture surrounding my church actually changed by gospel advancement. Some have looked at Moscow and called it a cult-run city, but I’ve always thought that it simply looked like a well evangelized city. It’s easy to talk about gospel advancement in theory, and everyone like’s Kuyper’s little bit about how Jesus can say “Mine!” about every square inch about the cosmos as long as it’s in the abstract; but what happens when the gospel actually advances? Are evangelized business owners and film-makers and artist and politicians supposed to look at their respective areas of influence and say “Christ’s!” or not? When that happens, a city starts to look different; cult-run cities look different from secular cities, but so do cities that largely recognize the lordship of King Jesus. So I want the effects of faithful ministry to be as palpable in Parkville (where Emmaus is, my home church) as they are in Moscow. I also want for my zeal and readiness to proclaim and defend the faith to be as instinctual as Durbin’s.
So what is the common denominator here? What makes these guys tick? As it turns out, the most significant common denominator for Wilson’s non-weird culture making and Durbin’s take-no-prisoner approach to evangelism isn’t Van Til (though, he is a significant common denominator). The most significant common denominator between this old-school reformed, more-presbyterian-than-most-presbyterians wordsmith on the one side, and this tattooed, reformed baptist, ex-addict on the other is their postmillinialism.
Recently, I wrote a few thoughts on Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s What Is the Mission of the Church, in which I gave a brief defense of non-weird culture making. At one point in their book, DeYoung and Gilbert voice the concern that postmillinialism is likely to produce an over-realized eschatology that will lead to little gospel-proclamation. I guess the thought is that if we think we’re already in the Revelation 20 millennium, we won’t feel the need to actively be concerned about the great commission, or something like that. Well, anyone who has been exposed to the street evangelistic endeavors of Apologia studios will tell you how this is manifestly not the case for all postmillinialists. In fact, according to this interview, Durbin will explain how his postmillinialism is precisely what compels him to evangelize.
Which brings me to my main point in writing this: is it possible to adopt Wilson’s non-weird culture making, and Durbin’s take-no-prisoners evangelism, without also adopting their eschatology? From where I’m standing now, having their “optimistic” eschatology at least makes it easier. Think about it: if I’m confident that my evangelistic endeavors will actually contribute–even if seemingly invisibly–to world conquest (gloriously gospel-drenched world conquest) there’s likely to be a little bit more zest in the proclamation. As an ex-dispensationalist, my evangelism used to go something like, “Everybody panic! This whole place is about to go up in smoke! Run out this back door (the “good news!” if you like) before you’re a gonner!” But a postmillinialist’s evangelism might look something like this, “Hey, you know all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to Jesus, right? That includes you and the ground you’re standing on. King Jesus is offering you amnesty for your perpetual rebellion. Come and be reconciled to the rightful King of the universe; you’re picking a fight you cannot win.” Am I wrong to prefer the latter?
Of course, the only question that really matters is this: what does the Bible teach about end times? But eschatology is tricky, and that’s why so many faithful Christians have been divided over the topic for so many years. Furthermore, it’s easy for me to crawl into the skin of a postmillinialist and read those parables about the kingdom of God being like yeast spreading through a lump slowly, or a mustard seed slowly growing up into a huge tree, and say, “It’s clear; this is talking about slow, historical gospel-triumph.” It’s also easy for me to stay in that skin and read “Sit at my right until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” or read about that little stone in Daniel chapter two, which grows into a mountain that covers the face of the whole earth, and conclude that the Kingdom of God will be established on earth slowly over time. And if I were to do that, it would be easy for me to stay in great standing with all of my friends, because the strategy of world conquest that I would be employing would be none other than the Great Commission. So I’d be doing the same things as all my evangelistic friends… only I would be doing it with a bit of a kick in my step.
So seriously, this is eschatological inquiry. I’m still somewhat of an eschatological agnostic (I sure know I’m not a dispensationalist though) and I know I can’t (and ought not) stay that way. I would like to invite any friends and interested readers to pipe in. Can any other eschatological system equally motivate the ruthless earthy commitments of these men? Can I have my cake and eat it too?