Home > Old Testament, premillennialism, S. Lewis Johnson, Worldview > The Rise and Fall of Nations: General Christian Morality versus a Biblical Perspective

The Rise and Fall of Nations: General Christian Morality versus a Biblical Perspective

April 2, 2012

As I come across various statements from Christians I know, I often tend to evaluate their words from the biblical point of view, as part of the continual process of the renewal of our minds, that we may grow in discernment (Romans 12:2).

Consider the following example, casual words from a church pastor.  Upset about the ever increasing wickedness of our society, he mentioned a particular news story that especially shocked him, and then declared that we surely deserve the same judgment as Sodom; and if we don’t get that (judgment, what happened to Sodom) we’ll have to do some apologizing to Sodom.

From the biblical perspective, however, two thoughts come to mind.  First, God promised Abraham (Genesis 18) that if even ten righteous persons were found in Sodom, he would spare the place for their sake.  Obviously, as bad as things now appear in our society, through God’s great mercy and gracious provision our society has far more than just ten righteous people.

Then, too, I thought about the nature of divine judgment, and an important point that S. Lewis Johnson made at least a few times, including in his Genesis and Romans series.  (I previously blogged the quote here.)  People today look at increasing wickedness in our society, including homosexuality and other sins mentioned in Romans 1, and think: surely we will experience God’s judgment upon our nation.  However, the biblical way to understand it, as Paul described in Romans 1, is that the increasing wickedness IS ITSELF the judgment of God.  It is not that the country is likely to experience judgment, but that we as a society already ARE under God’s judgment.

The weaker person — focused on this world and morality, and lacking strong biblical knowledge (and a generally low view of scripture) — sees the obvious moral breakdown in society, and talks of how nice life was 50 years ago and how society has completely turned itself upside down since then.  Again, though, the Bible and actual world history give us a much clearer picture:  the world is getting worse, not better; yet our society’s immorality is nothing new.  Ancient and medieval civilizations flourished and then fell into serious moral decline, yet for the most part (with rare exceptions such as Pompey in A.D. 79) they did not experience the particular judgment of Sodom: this is the age of grace, after all, in which God is calling out His people (the church) from among the nations (and each of these societies presumably had at least ten righteous people).

A right understanding of the kingdom theme, especially as taught in Daniel 2, helps us understand the normal rise and fall of the Gentile nations, in this the age of the Gentiles.  From my overall experience, the people I’ve interacted with, I would further argue that the premillennialist has the best understanding of this very issue.  After all, since non-premillennialists think that Daniel 2 is referring to what happened at Christ’s First Coming — a spiritual kingdom in the midst of those ancient human kingdoms — along with a simple concept of this life, then death and heaven, then the resurrection and Eternal state, the Bible (in this mindset) has no connection to real world history.  Since the New Testament has prime importance, and the Bible is deemed to be primarily about soteriology, the non-premillennialist has less reason to even consider and study the Bible beyond such limited scope – and why bother, since God’s word really doesn’t have anything to say beyond the message of salvation.

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    • April 3, 2012 at 8:25 am

      I noticed that your blog doesn’t allow any comments, even though you end the article with a note about “comments welcome.” I was going to post the following link to your blog, but since you don’t allow comments there, here is my response:

      http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2006/02/what-dispensationalism-isnt.html and

      http://hipandthigh.blogspot.com/2010/11/what-dispensationalists-believe.html

      Really, that Gerstner work is so well known as to be disreputable and not even worth discussing — something that does not interact with dispensationalism, that brings up so many old straw-men arguments, including non-dispensational specifics of Dallas Theological Seminary teaching.

      We biblical dispensationalists continue to point out the truth to you anti-disps, as to what biblical dispensationalism is. But it also has become quite clear that most if not all anti-disps are willfully ignorant, hardened and unwilling to listen to the truth.

      • April 3, 2012 at 12:02 pm

        I regret Lynda that I cannot quite figure out at this time why my posts will not allow comments on my blog, but I’m working on it. I contend that Blogger.com is a fairly user unfriendly format, but that’s probably my lame excuse for computer illiteracy. That aside, I did find it somewhat humorous that when I went to the link you posted for me to read it was not found on that website. Perhaps you could repost it so I could read it.

        At any rate, I did graduate from a Dispensational Seminary with a Master’s in Exegetical Theology, and am very familiar with Pentecost, Saucy and others from Dallas – so I’m not quite sure about your tone. I do find it unfortunate that most all Dispensationalists believe they hold the exclusive torch to Biblical truth and all others are Johnny-Come-Lately s or worse. Naturally, that throws some very learned scholars into the dung heap from your perspective, which I would judge to be unfortunate. Good grief — you aren’t contending that all of these men are idiots are you?

        Church Fathers: Augustine (The City of God), Polycarp, Clement
        Reformation: Martin Luther, John Calvin, and the writers of the Westminster Confession (chaps. 32, 33).
        Modern: Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, Anthony Hoekema (The Bible and the Future), R.C. Sproul (The Last Days According to Jesus), Meredith Kline (The Structure of Biblical Authority), John Murray.

        Gerstner is every bit the scholar that Pentecost, Ryrie and Bright are. I believe I accurately quoted several Dispensational authors and their perspectives in the post which you refused to comment on. I think the problem is certainly a large interpretative one, and worth more of a comment than writing that the Amillennialist’s arguments are simply “straw men” and that anti Dispensationalists are willfully ignorant, hardened and unwilling to hear the truth — a category I’m surprised you are convinced you are unfamiliar with. I found the following link to be helpful in assessing the larger picture of end times issues. The basic gist is that Christ’s return is imminent, for which I am heartily grateful as I’m sure you are. In my struggle to abandon Dispensationalism I have found that by giving it up my relationship to Christ has not suffered at all.

        http://claymore.50megs.com/newtrib.htm

        Blessings,

        Rick Brownell

      • April 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm

        The links I posted work fine (I just checked them again, no problem), so how about reading those, to understand what dispensationalists do and do not believe.

        As for Gerstner, here is another good response, a review specifically concerning Gerstner’s book WRONGLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH:
        http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/tmsj3d.pdf

        But this is off-topic for this blog post anyway, so there’s really nothing more to say, beyond what has already been said and what is explained in these articles I’ve linked.

      • Rick Brownell
        April 3, 2012 at 11:30 pm

        Mayhue makes some very good points about Gerstner’s failure to see that Dispensationalist’s can indeed be Calvinists, about which Gerstner has clearly gone over board and is in error. I did not refer to any of those issues in my blog however, which you would have known had you read it. Your deprecation for Gerstner’s valid points regarding Dispensationalism is telling too. The points I made in my blog reference Dispensational authors and their disdain for the continuity of Scripture, and the eternal distinction God supposedly has for Israel and the Church. In a word, Gerstner, for all his errors in judgment about Dispensationalists being spurious Calvinists, remains clearly on point that Dispensationalism is a blatant rejection of the gospel. On that point, Gerstner is especially correct — a point I made continuously in my blog.
        Blessings,
        Rick Brownell

  1. April 4, 2012 at 7:44 am

    Well of course a 25-page review is not going to cover every single thing in a book. It’s a review, an overview and sampling of a book. The point is that the overall tenor of Gerstner’s book is a false representation of dispensationalism. Mayhue covers it well enough in the introductory pages, pointing out Gerstner’s overall error of thinking that dispensationalism is related to soteriology, and Gerstner’s overall flawed approach.

    Your article was way too long for the blog format (reference http://bibchr.blogspot.com/2012/03/growing-your-blog-what-to-do-what-never.html — see point 3) but I scanned through enough to see several false statements regarding dispensationalism.

    As anyone who desires to know the truth can find out, from the links I provided, plus the links on those pages plus many places elsewhere, dispensationalism is not about soteriology, but about ecclesiology and eschatology. Dispensationalism does not, and never did, teach two ways of salvation or two peoples of God, etc. Nothing about dispensationalism is unbiblical, and it does not relate to soteriology.

    • Rick Brownell
      April 5, 2012 at 1:00 am

      I will close with the words of Scofield, the grand daddy of Dispensationalism, from his original reference Bible: “As a dispensation, grace begins with the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 3:24-26; 4:24,25). The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ, with good works as a fruit of salvation.” (Notice it does not say that the Covenant of Grace was fulfilled at the cross, but begins for all men at the cross, therefore the Old Testament saints were saved by their works righteousness, while Christians and men afterward are saved by grace through faith.

      Dispensationalists may be in error, but it’s not a crushing error. Unlike Hyper-Calvinism which makes the same mistake as the Pharisee (I am right before God because I’m elect, I don’t need to be righteous) dispensationalism says I am a sinner in need of grace. It’s point of failure is that it says others may be saved by something other than grace through faith. And that’s why you are very confused brothers and sisters but, certainly our brothers and sisters.

  2. April 5, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Like I’ve said before, current dispensationalism is NOT Scofield-dispensationalism. Dispensationalism deals with eschatology and ecclesiology, NOT soteriology. Please move beyond Dallas and Scofield dispensationalism to modern times.

    But specifically regarding that item from Scofield, here is the truth concerning that item in his study notes. This is a well-known case of misrepresentation by Scofield’s enemies:

    From S. Lewis Johnson (source: http://www.sljinstitute.net/sermons/doctrine/pages/purpose13.html — from 1984-1985)
    “in the past there have been a number of unguarded statements. For example, Mr. Scofield in the Scofield Reference Bible (not in the new edition, it has been corrected because of the fact that this unguarded statement was made), on John chapter 1, he made a famous statement. It’s famous because his enemies picked it up and criticized him so strongly for it; this is what he said, “The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation, but acceptance or rejection of Christ.” Now if you’ll listen to that statement again, “The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation but acceptance or rejection of Christ.” You can see how someone reading this can say, “well, evidently, Mr. Scofield believed that in the Old Testament times one was saved by keeping the law.” That seems to be plainly the point; “The point of testing is no longer legal obedience as the condition of salvation.” I think, any fair reading would come to that conclusion.

    Now, of course, if you read all of Mr. Scofield’s notes, which critics often don’t do on either side of issues like this; they tend to want to pick out something that someone has said on the opposing side and criticize. You would have found a number of places where Mr. Scofield makes the point that no one was ever saved by anything but faith in Christ.”

    Again, this argument along with all the other misrepresentations of dispensationalism have long ago been responded to and refuted. All of what you are saying — this Scofield error, the claims of Gerstner, etc. — are inaccurate and very dated claims that have been refuted too many times, to people who apparently are deaf and unwilling to listen since they keep bringing up these same old false claims.
    Comments for this post have been closed.

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