For example, in the 1970s, John spoke out against charismatic theology and rankled the charismatics. Then he made the feminist angry because he advocated that women should stay home and raise families. He wrote The Gospel According to Jesus during the 80s and upset the non-lordship, easy-believism fundamentalist Baptists. A whole bunch of IFB folks didn’t like the way he explained the atonement of Christ and they claimed John taught a “bloodless” gospel, whatever that is. In recent years, John has annoyed the Purpose-Driven Life advocates with choice comments against their view of preaching, and presently, the entire emergent church crowd are bugged by John’s recent release, The Truth War, which takes them to task for being squishy on absolute truth.
So, continuing his trend as everyone’s favorite gadfly, John opened the 2007 Shepherd’s Conference with a message aggravating the amillennialists. The working title of the message is something like, Why Every Self-respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist. Without going into the entire message (a summary can be reviewed here and here), I believe I am on firm ground when I say, as in the biblical vernacular, it has caused no small stir.
Amillennialists all around blogdom are reacting with varying degree of emotion. From saddened head wagging dismay, garment rending lament, to outright disgust, as if John had proclaimed all wives of amillennialists to be fat and their children ugly. There are some folks who are not even at the conference providing their criticisms of John’s message.
Allow me to weigh in on John’s remarks both pro and con.
First, I believe many amillers are over reacting to John’s message and taking it a wee bit too personal. I noted some friendly jabs at amill belief, but I never thought John went beyond that to be ridiculing and mocking as some have suggested.
Additionally, anyone who is remotely familiar with John’s preaching ministry knows his stance on eschatology. He has several written books on the subject, including a two volume commentary set on the book of Revelation, so I can’t understand why folks are reacting surprised as if they had never known this about John. They are carrying on as if he revealed some dark, scandalous secret about himself.
Moreover, there are at least two or more seminars addressing eschatology, Israel and the Church, and rapture positions every year at the Shepherd’s Conference, so that’s nothing new either.
Are these amillers (and postmillers as well) of the opinion that John should never express his convictions on these matters at the conference he hosts just to protect the sensibilities of those individuals who may be a slight minority in attendance?
On the other hand, I believe the subject could had been broached in a manner that was not as surprising and unexpected by the conference participants. I don’t know how that could had been accomplished apart from a written announcement before hand, but it may had been helpful with heading off any ill spirit.
I also thought John mischaracterized amillennial theology to some degree. Jason at Fide-O has been pointing that out, even though I think some of his comments are driven a bit by emotion. None the less, I think he has room to complain about his position being misstated. Premillennialists do not like to be mischaracterized by their detractors, so they should do their best to respect the amillennialists by representing their beliefs accurately. I cringe just as equally when a amiller misstates premillennial hermeneutics, as when a premiller calls amillennialism replacement theology. In the end, I think there is room on both sides for learning how to frame the discussion properly, with accuracy and fair representation to the other.
I will say that I thought John’s comparison of how amillennial hermeneutics tend to spiritualize too much the prophetic narratives, with the manner in which theistic evolutionists and progressive creationists spiritualize the book of Genesis, was right on. I do not think it is a coincidence that the long-age, frame-work theology that puts millions of years into the Genesis narrative are for the most part Reformed in their theology, (M. Kline for instance), and thus their hermeneutics.
But, I do think John will be better served when discussing this issue if he will take the time to interact with modern apologists and thinkers in Amillennialism like Kim Riddlebarger, rather than older writers who are now deceased.
Both sides will serve each other and the Lord if we put aside our condescending attitudes and proud spirit.