Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday School Reading - April 12, 2009

Sorry that this post is a day late but I wasn't able to get to it yesterday. Here is some recommended reading regarding our discussion in Sunday School this past week. This week we looked at both millennial views and eschatology taught in the Gospels particularly related to Jesus' teaching about the Kingdom of God. We'll have some book and paper recommendations regarding both of those topics.

First, again, eschatology as a separate topic is not really addressed in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Instead, the Westminster Assembly shows a senstivity to the general New Testament understanding that Scripture teaches that the end times are already present in the first advent of the Lord Jesus Christ though that they will not be consumated until his second advent and in the Shorter Catechism this is related exclusively to the benefits of salvation in Christ. So look at Questions and Responses 32-36 as dealing with the benefits of redemption that believers receive from Christ in this life. Question and Response 37 deals with the benefits of redemption that believers receive from Christ at their deaths. Question and Response 38 deals with the benefits of redemption that believers receive from Christ at the resurrection.

Second, here are some books reviews. I mentioned Sunday that I would recommend what I've found to be the best books arguing for historic Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. Again, while I believe that the Amillennial view best represents the Biblical teaching on eschatology, I think that a case can be made for the other two and if you'd like to investigate then please check the books recommended. I do think that the dispensational premillennial position is clearly unbiblical in both its original and progressive articulations.
  • A Case for Historic Premillennialism: An Alternative to "Left Behind" Eschatology edited by Craig Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung - This is probably the best comprehensive presentation of historic or classic premillennialism. While I do not agree with their conclusions I do want to note that this is a good articulation of the argument.
  • Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope by Keith Mathison - While there are better scholarly articulations of the Postmillennial viewpoint, I think that Mathison in a simple and readable manner best presents the key to many Postmillennialists' complaint about Amillennialists; that they end up taking a pessimistic view in regard to the end times. For that reason I'll recommend his presentation of this view. I also want to mention that a more scholarly and older presentation of postmillennialism, The Millennium by Lorraine Boettner, is available in the church library. I do want to mention that Boettner claims, incorrectly in my opinion, that B.B. Warfield supports the Postmillennial view. I would argue that Warfield predates this specific debate and that Boettner misappropriates some of Warfield's statements about Christ's kingship that all three of these positions would agree with (Richard Gaffin also makes this case in an article linked to below).
  • Christ and the Future by Cornelius Venema - This is a shorter and more lay-friendly version of Venema's longer The Promise of the Future. I think this is probably the best book arguing for the Amillennial viewpoint and highly recommend it (you can find it online for just $10-11). If you have time to read then you could go for the longer book though it's about twice the cost. Venema's work on eschatology is probably the best that you'll find. He does argue for what is called "optimistic amillennialism" in that he wants to emphasize the Lordship of Christ in all Spheres rather than take a pessimistic view of the future until Christ's return. You also may want to look at Anthony Hoekema's The Bible and the Future though I think that Venema's work is more consistent and thorough. Hoekema's book is available in the church library.
The next thing that we discussed was the Kingdom of God as presenting Jesus' teaching of eschatology in the four Gospels, though particularly evident in the Synoptic Gospels. Here are two books that deal with that subject.
  • The Coming of the Kingdom by Herman Ridderbos - This is a fantastic book where Ridderbos thoroughly studies everything that the four Gospels as well as Acts and the epistles teach about the Kingdom of God. Ridderbos spends a lot of time trying to examine what the Kingdom is according to Jesus' teaching, when the Kingdom comes, and what the coming of the Kingdom means for God's people. This book is available in the church library.
  • The Teaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church by Geerhardus Vos - Sadly this book is in a rare print and so it's hard to find and not cheap for its length but it is a great treatment of Jesus' teaching about the nature and coming of the Kingdom of God and also how this relates to the Church as the people of God who experience the blessings of the Kingdom. Ridderbos was very familiar with this book when he wrote his longer treatment above.

Finally, though we will not examine Old Testament eschatology leading into the New Testament in our study because of time limitations, I do want to mention a few books in case you want to examine this.

  • The Eschatology of the Old Testament by Geerhardus Vos - In this book Vos looks at the hopes and expectations of the Old Testament prophets and saints in regard to the future. He shows that these hopes and expectations were entirely tied up in the person of the Messiah and his coming. This is a pretty short book that you ought to be able to find for about $10 and it's much more than worth that.
  • From Age to Age: The Unfolding of Biblical Eschatology by Keith Mathison - This is a brand new book that traces the Biblical teaching on eschatology using biblical theology rather than systematic theology. While Mathison is a Postmillennialist and so I do not agree with some of his conclusions in his other works this is still a great service to the church. I have not had a chance to pick up and read this book yet but it is highly recommended by Derek Thomas and Michael Horton (both Amillennialists).

Third, here is where the topic of eschatology is addressed in a number of Presbyterian and Reformed systematic theologies. Please keep in mind that these works predate the American and British debate over millennial views and so these authors will not explicitly take a side in that discussion:

  • Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin - Eschatology underlies much of Calvin's work but isn't usually explicitly discussed as a separate topic. The final resurrection is dealt with in Book 3, Chapter 25.
  • Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck deals more explicitly with the traditional topics under the heading of eschatology. While like Calvin and the Westminster Standards eschatological assumptions underlie much of his work; the topic is directly addressed in Volume 4: Holy Spirit and New Creation, Part III, Chapters 12-18.
  • Systematic Theology by Charles Hodge - Hodge deals with eschatology in Book 3, Part IV, Chapters 1-4. The link provided is to a .pdf file of Hodge's work.
  • Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge - Eschatology is discussed in Chapters 34-37. The link provided is to a copy of this book on Google Books where you can view and download it for free.
  • Systematic Theology by Robert L. Dabney - Dabney discusses eschatology in Chapters 43-46. Dabney's work is also available online and you can scroll through the table of contents in the link provided.
Finally, here are some articles that you can read online for free dealing with millennial views and the Kingdom of God:
  • "Amillennialism" by Anthony Hoeksema
  • "Jesus' Mission, According to His Own Testimony" by B.B. Warfield - While this article is not dealing with eschatology per se, Warfield does address the purpose of Christ's coming. Part of this coming is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and the establishment of God's eschatological Kingdom.
  • "The Millennium and the Apocalypse" by B.B. Warfield - Keep in mind that Warfield is not presenting Amillennialism or Premillennialism as he predates this argument but he is articulating what he thinks Scripture teaches about the millennium. This article is helpful to move away from some of our biases and see what theologians have thought in the past before getting tied up exclusively in this debate.
  • "Ethics and the Millennium" by John Frame - Frame is sympathetic to both the Amil and Postmil arguments (though he does take the Amil position in other papers). Here he argues that those who support both views need to guard from pessimism and triumphalism.
  • "Theonomy and Eschatology: Some Reflections on Postmillennialism" by Richard B. Gaffin Jr. - It should be noted that while Postmillennialism does not require a theonomic view of the law the two are often closely related. Gaffin addresses that in this article. This article is the one that has me convinced that Postmillennialism requires too much of a stretch of the Biblical teaching on the last things.
  • "A Study of American Postmillennialism" by Kim Riddlebarger
  • "The Prima Facie Acceptability of Postmillennialism" by Greg Bahnsen - I think that Bahnsen and Gentry present the best academic arguments for Postmillennialism. Here are two articles by him in support of that position.
  • "Objections to Postmillennialism" by Greg Bahnsen
  • "Genre and Hermeneutics in Revelation 20:1-6" by Vern Poythress
  • "Currents within Amillennialism" by Vern Poythress - This is a great article to find more recommended reading from a first class New Testament scholar.
  • "2 Thessalonians 1 Supports Amillennialism" by Vern Poythress - Here Poythress gives us an example of how Revelation 20:1-11 needs to be interpreted in light of everything else that Scripture says about the last times rather than the other way around. This is a great example of allowing the clear parts of Scripture to interpret the unclear (a basic hermeneutic principle).

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