It is no more Biblical than its twin sister, the false view of Spirituality. Instead of a message of defeat, the Bible gives us Hope, both in this world and the next. The Bible gives us aneschatol-ogy of dominion, an eschatology of victory. This is not some blind, "everything-will-work-out-somehow" kind of optimism. It is a solid, confident, Bible-based assurance that, before the Second Coming of Christ, the gospel will be victorious throughout the entire world.
For many, that will seem incredible. It goes against the whole spirit of the modern age; for years, Christians have been taught to expect defeat. Certainly, it's a good idea to be careful about "new" doctrines. Everything must be checked b y the Scriptures. One thing to consider, however, is that the idea of dominion is not new. In fact, until fairly recently, most Christians held an eschatology of dominion. Most Christians throughout the history of the Church regarded the eschatology of defeat as a doctrine of crackpots.
The Hope of worldwide conquest for Christianity has been the traditional faith of the Church through the ages. This fact can easily be demonstrated again and again. We can see it in the words of St. Athanasius, the great Church Father of the fourth century whose classic book On the Incarnation of the Word of God reveals his strong eschatology of dominion. He summarized its thesis:
Since the Saviour came to dwell in our midst, not only does idolatry no longer increase, but it is getting less and gradually ceasing to be. Similarly, not only does the wisdom of the Greeks no longer make any progress, but that which used to be is disappearing. And daemons, so far from continuing to impose on people by their deceits and oracle-givings and sorceries, are routed by the sign of the cross if they so much as try. On the other hand, while idolatry and everything else that opposes the faith of Christ is daily dwindling and weakening and falling, the Saviour's teaching is increasing everywhere! Worship, then, the Saviour "Who is above all" and mighty, even God the Word, and condemn those who are being defeated and made to disappear by Him. When the sun has come, darkness prevails no longer; any of it that may be left anywhere is driven away. So also, now that the Divine epiphany of the Word of God has taken place, the darkness of idols prevails no more, and all parts of the world in every direction are enlightened by His teaching.
You must not suppose that Athanasius was just a positive-thinking optimist, relaxing in quiet, peaceful surroundings. On the contrary: he lived through one of the most severe persecutions the world had ever seen, the Emperor Diocletian's all-out attempt to stamp out the Christian faith. Later, Athanasius had to stand practically alone for 40 years in his defense of the doctrine of the Trinity against rampant heresy, being exiled by the government on five occasions and sometimes in peril for his life. In fact, his story gave birth to a proverb: Athanasius contra mundum (Athanasius against the world). Yet he never lost sight of the basic fact of world history, that the Word had become flesh, conquering the devil, redeeming mankind, flooding the world with Light which the darkness could not overcome.
The Church's eschatology of dominion radically shaped the history of Western civilization. For example, think about the great cathedrals of Europe, and compare them to the church buildings of today. Those old cathedrals, magnificent works of art constructed over decades and sometimes generations, were built to last for centuries - and they have. But modern evangelical churches are usually built to last a generation at most. We don't expect to be around long enough to get much use out of them, and we certainly don't expect our great-grandchildren to worship in them. We don't even expect to have greatgrandchildren. It is safe to say that the thought of descendants living five hundred years from now has never even entered the minds of most evangelical today. Yet, for many Christians of previous generations, the idea of future generations benefiting from their labors was not strange in the slightest degree. They built for the ages.
Let's look at a very different field: exploration. Not one historian in a hundred knows what motivated Christopher Columbus to seek a western route to the Indies. Trade? Yes, that was part of the reason. More than this, however, it was unfulfilled prophecy. Before he began his expeditions, Columbus crammed his journals with quotations from Isaiah and other Biblical writers, in which he detailed the numerous prophecies that the Great Commission to disciple all nations of the world would be successful (see, for example, Isa. 2:2-5; 9:2-7; 11:1-10; 32:15-17; 40:4-11; 42:1-12; 49:1-26; 56:3-8; 60:1-22; 61:1-11; 62:1-12; 65:1-25; 66:1-24). He figured that if the Indies were to be con verted, a sea route would be a much more efficient way to bring them the gospel; and he credited his discoveries not to the use of mathematics or maps, but rather to the Holy Spirit, who was bringing to pass what Isaiah had foretold. We must remember that America had been discovered numerous times, by other cultures; yet successful colonization and development took place only in the age of exploration begun by Columbus. Why? Because these explorers were bearers of the gospel, and their goal was to conquer the world for the kingdom of God. They came expecting that the New World would be Christianized. They were certain of victory, and assumed that any obstacles they met had been placed there for the express purpose of being overcome. They knew that Christians are destined for dominion.
Examples could be multiplied, in every field. The whole rise of Western Civilization - science and technology, medicine, the arts, constitutionalism, the jury system, free enterprise, literacy, increasing productivity, a rising standard of living, the high status of women - is attributable to one major fact: the West has been transformed by Christianity. True, the transformation is not yet complete. There are many battles ahead. But the point is that, even in what is still largely an early Christian civilization, God has showered us with blessings.
Many Christians do not realize it, but the Hope is the basis for many of the great old hymns of the faith, written before the modern era of evangelical despair and pessimism. Think about that the next time you sing Martin Luther's "A mighty Fortress is our God," Isaac Watts's "Jesus shall reign where'er the sun cloth his successive journeys run," or George Duffield's "Stand up, stand up for Jesus ." Do you really believe that Jesus is now leading us "from victory unto victory . . . till every foe is vanquished, and Christ is Lord indeed"? That is what the Church has historically believed. That is what they sang in their hymns. This can be seen most clearly in the traditional Christmas carols, which, like Athanasius's reflections on the Incarnation, are unabashed expectations of Christ's triumph over the world through the gospel. Carols such as "Come, thou long-expected Jesus," "O come, O come, Emmanuel," "Hark! the herald angels sing," "God rest you merry, gentlemen," and many others are written from the same basic perspective as the present book. The conviction that - as a result of His first advent - Christ is now reigning from heaven and conquering the earth underlies the message of "Joy to the world!":
No more let sins and sorrows grow, Nor thorns infest the ground; He comes to make his blessings flow Far as the curse is found.
He rules the world with truth and grace, And makes the nations prove The glories of his righteousness And wonders of his love.
The same is true of that great victory-oriented carol, "It came upon the midnight clear":
For 10, the days are hast'ning on, By prophet bards foretold, When with the ever-circling years Comes round the age of gold; When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world give back the song Which now the angels sing.
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