Friday, July 31, 2015

Loraine Boettner's Postmillennial Vision of Ecological Health and the Great Commission

Recently I was reminded of a portion of Loraine Boettner's work, The Millennium (1957), that I first read back when I was still a Calvinist.  Boettner held to both Calvinism and Postmillennialism.  Interestingly, I’ve learned that many (maybe most) of the early Arminians were also Postmillennialists (Link). It seems that eschatology may be one more area where early Calvinists and early Arminians had more in common than is usually noticed. 

Here is Loraine Boettner's Postmillennial vision of what could result if Christians took seriously our call to care for creation; although I do not personally hold to postmillennialism, I think his optimism here is exactly right (bold mine): [1]

In the Genesis account of the origin of sin we read that as a part of the penalty placed on man for his sin the ground was cursed (3:17,18). Thenceforth it would bring forth thorns and thistles, so that he would have a never-ending struggle to maintain his existence. The plants and animals and the forces of nature in general, which formerly were for his use and service, then came into a different relationship to him and became in a degree antagonistic to him. His previously pleasant task of dressing and keeping the garden then became ‘toil,’ irksome labor; and he must thenceforth earn his bread by the sweat of his face (3:19). And in reality is not much of the waste land condition of the earth the natural and inevitable result of man’s indolence, ignorance and generally perverted nature which has come about as a result of his fall into sin? The barren and unimproved stretches of land witness to his neglect. Proper irrigation and cultivation has made many a desert to blossom like the rose. One who has traveled through our arid southwest, particularly through New Mexico, Arizona and southern California, has had opportunity to see what great changes take place when water, fertilizer, improved plant varieties and cultivation are applied to the soil. The luxurious growths and beautiful landscapes that now are to be found in some limited areas are but a small sample of what can be done more efficiently and on a world-wide scale when man returns to the proper performance of the task that was assigned to him in Eden. A field that this year has a beautiful crop of wheat or corn may next year lie untilled, with the result that weeds and thistles take possession. Man’s proper management of the earth, the task assigned to him before the fall, will go far toward restoring a profitable plant and animal life. Remedy the sin condition in man and a marvelous transformation will take place in nature. Luther Burbank and others have done much to bring back toward their original condition many varieties of plants and fruits that in their wild and neglected state had degenerated until they were practically worthless.

His book also includes this powerful quote (bold mine):

That the progress of the Church through these years has been slow is due to the fact that Christians in general have not taken seriously Christ's command to evangelize the world. The Great Commission is addressed not merely to ministers and missionaries, but to all Christians everywhere... Roderick Campbell has well said:

"Some day the Christian church will learn to profit by the bitter experience of the church and nation of the Old Covenant. Two very pointed and useful lessons may be learned from the records of the past. Israel had been commanded by God to march in and take possession of the Promised Land. About one year after they left Egypt they reached the borders of the land. Then their faith and their courage failed. 'Let us make a captain,' they say, 'and let us return into Egypt.' What is the result? -- forty weary years of wandering among the rocks and the sand of the desert, and the death of that entire adult generation with the exception of two men of faith ( cf. Nu. 14; 32:10-13).

"The other lesson is equally profitable and clear. A new army under Joshua entered the land. It won its first signal victory at Jericho. It then met bitter and humiliating defeat. Why? Israel had sinned. The guilty party must be punished and every forbidden thing destroyed before victory could be achieved. When this was done Israel found itself on the side of the Almighty ( Joshua 7). God fought for Israel with a mighty hand. The fulfillment of prophecy awaits the day when the church will really believe that God will do all that He has promised to do, and when the church will sincerely aim at entire conformity to the revealed will of God. Then, by the agency of imperfect but faithful men, we may expect God to do what He has promised to do" (Israel and the New Covenant, p. 162).


Further Reading:

[1] Loraine Boettner, The Millennium (1957).

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