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Monday, October 02, 2006 

A Letter Concerning Premillenialism
Topic: Theology

Reading: Hebrew homework and Vos' Letters
Enjoying: powdered sugar doughnuts. mmmm...
Listening: Anberlin and Cartel. A bit punkish for this late in the evening, but I'm not quite tired yet

In one of his correspondences to J. Gresham Machen, Geerhardus Vos comments on the doctrine known as premillenialism. He notes the severity with which it is held by its supporters, and comments on it. We have noted this doctrine with distaste in the past, and it should be noted there is a historical discrepency to this doctrine. What virtually eveyone today means when they breathe "premillenialism" across their lips is that of the dispensational variety. Dispensationalism is a hitorically recent theological novelty that twists most of what it touches, a sort of cripple King Midas.

The older, purer form of premillenialism is sometimes thought to be the eschatological choice of some of the Apologists and Church Fathers. Usually, this is demarcated from the former by the label "chiliastic" (or chilial) premillenialism, or simply chiliasm. This option is a perfectly orthodox view of the parousia and events directly preceding the conclusion of the Day of the Lord. It differs from dispensational premillenialism in that it typically does not embrace the dispensational hermeneutic, is not filled with endlessly repetitious coming downs and rising ups of various parties between earth and the ethereal heaven, does not reintroduce the Jewish cult to blaspheme Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and force and impossibly complex and foggy numerology.

Unfortunately, it is dispensational premillenialism that Vos is discussing in his letter. You didn't pay good money to hear this author prattle on his own opinions, so without further ado, Geerhardus Vos. (You did pay good money, though, right?)

May 7, 1936
1212 So. Sycamore Street,
Santa Ana, California.

My Dear Mr. Machen:
...Then there is Prichard (a pastor in this region of CA and former Westminster student - Ed.) near Los Angeles, who left his last church in that city because of the ceaseless inculcation by the people of (and insistence on) Premillenialism. This doctrine has spread to such an extent here and so overlaid the essence of the gospel, nay of the very core of religion, that it seems hard to speak or argue about it. The sentiment is so strong and so absolutely focused in that one matter of eschatological chronology, that I sometimes am made to feel that the "Millennium" (sic) has become a god, crowding out even the true God in the imagination and religious interest of the people. If you tell them that you have your doubts about the Millennium they ask very naively whether you do not believe in the second coming of the Lord...
With kind regards to yourself and the other members of your faculty and the assurance that you always have my deep interest and my prayers I remain

Sincerely yours,
Geerhardus Vos[1]
It is interesting that Vos seems to think that doctrines ought to be argued about, which would no doubt be taken with pained expressions in today's milieu. On that note, I would like to point out that Vos was, if anything, overly mild and meek when it came to doctrine and against the relief impressed by Machen, Warfield, et al. In addition to this, I don't think the condition premillenialism enjoyed in Vos' day has sufficiently decreased. We here at What the Thunder Said... pray that it would continue to decline.

In conclusion, whenever mentioning Vos, it would be wrong to not remind you of The Vossed World. Enjoy.

[1]The Letters of Geerhardus Vos ed. J. T. Dennison Jr. (P & R Publishing, 2005) p. 236 - 37.Back

[Vos] | [theology]


Awesome thoughts Brian! I wonder, however, did you consider progressive dispensationalism (Darel Bock, et al) when you pointed out that it is on the decline? At any rate, I would agree that it is on the decline in the academic world, esp. among evangelical academics. But I am not too sure if it is actually on the decline in western churches (maybe that's not what you meant anyway).
I agree that Vos *seemed* overly meek, esp. when placed against Machen and the infant WTS (though it did have a premil prof.), not to mention when we think about how long he stayed at Princeton after its reorganization and the fact that he worshipped at a Methodist church in the summer. However, when I read his book reviews sometimes I think he may have took lessons in polemic from the same instructor as Van Til (i.e. Luther, minus the excessive explicitives). It appears to me that we might do well to look into his seemingly catholic spirit, because it was obviously not based upon a lack of theological conviction, as you pointed out.
Do you know what Vos thought of the common sense philosphy of Old Princeton? This is a question I've long wanted an answer for and I know he thought about it considering his background in philosophy. I wonder if Horton would know (hint hint, wink wink, nudge nudge, ol' buddy ol' pal!).

That was a VERY interesting one! Seriously interesting.

That was a VERY interesting one! Seriously interesting.

That is great to hear, thank you for reading!

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Transplanted from the artic blight of Minnesota to the sunny paradise of SoCal, I am attending school and learning to say "dude." I like to think of myself as equal parts surf rash, Batman, heavy metal, Levinas, poetic license, and reformational. Other than creating blund blogs, I enjoy reading, sporting, and socializing with serious and funny people.
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