Friday, July 01, 2005

The Bible and the Future

I've been following along with the Thinklings Book Club as they have read through Anthony Hoekema's The Bible and the Future, and the last book club installment is now available. Even though I've mostly lurked, it has been good to read through their discussions as I followed along with the readings.

Overall, the book is a pretty good read, laying out an amillennial position on eschatology. Hoekema does a great job laying out the concepts of "inaugurated eschatology" and the "already/not yet" tension. The sections on the afterlife, especially on the intermediate state, were a breath of fresh air in contrast to the quasi-gnosticism that infiltrates much Evangelical discussion on "heaven." Hoekema very capably argues that the Scriptures anchor our hopes towards future resurrection, not an ethereal, disembodied existence. The whole of creation is groaning for a future total redemption, a new heaven and a new earth. God's plan is to redeem the fallen creation, not to scrap it in favor of "Plan B."

In discussing other eschatological positions, Hoekema focuses most heavily on premillennialism (particularly of the dispensational variety), which he ably critiques. Although the book was written in the 1970's, the criticisms of dispensationalism are just as applicable today and are especially valuable as this viewpoint has become the majority report in modern Evangelicalism. I think one of the book's main strengths is its critical assessment of this popular view.

One disappointment, though, is that the book dismisses the postmillennial view with only a few pages of discussion. In addition to only briefly looking at the specifics of postmillennialism, Hoekema spends little time establishing his view of the so-called "time-texts" (the Olivet discourse concerning "this generation," etc.) which are often employed by preterist/postmillennial commentators. I think preterists have made some very convincing arguments concerning these time-texts, and it would have been good to see Hoekema interact with the texts to a greater extent. However, to be fair, Hoekema is addressing older versions of postmillennialism, since his book predates the work of guys like Kenneth Gentry.

Overall, a good read and a good overview of amillennial eschatology.

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