Why Dispensationalists Believe in a Millennium

Recently a friend wrote to me, “Am I so far off base when I say dispensationalists want a millennium so Christ can vindicate His first advent and prove He is all He claimed to be?” When some pastors who believe in a pretribulation rapture more quickly catechize their churches in the timing of future events rather than the glory of the Cross, his question is well-founded.

Why do I believe in a future period of peace and glory during which Jesus Christ will rule the earth?

  1. Revelation 20:1-10 Not only does this passage promise 1,000 years 6 times, but more importantly, it places this era directly following the second coming of Christ in Rev. 19:11-21 and directly before the final Judgment.
  1. Romans 11:25-29 All the Jews will be saved one day. They are not cast away. They are still uniquely God’s people. There is no promise for all the Egyptians, Assyrians, Edomites, or Americans to be saved. This ethnic group has some future plan in the mind of God here on earth.
  1. Luke 19:11-27 In this parable Jesus promises rewards to faithful servants in the form of ruling authority at His return. Nor is this the only time His people are motivated by power to rule nations. Rev. 2:26-27 “He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father;” Faithfulness until the end will result in a reward of ruling authority. See also 1 Cor. 6:2-3; Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30; Rev. 3:21. The doctrine of rewards supports an earthly kingdom.
  1. Acts 1:6-7 After having taught the disciples for 40 days about the Kingdom, the disciples wanted to know when the Jews would be restored to their earthly national power as the OT promised. Jesus replied with, “You don’t need to know when.” He did not rebuke them for missing the main point of his 7 weeks’ instruction.
  1. Hebrews 8:5-13 The Old Covenant is a shadow; it is the first; it is old; it is decaying; it will soon disappear. The New Covenant is better; it is the second; it is new. Therefore, there is not a single controlling Covenant from Genesis to Revelation. Without this “Covenant of Grace,” then those passages that talk about Israel, a kingdom, and future glory make sense as fulfilled on this earth. See also 2 Cor. 3:6-16.
  1. Zechariah 12-14 The prophecies of these chapters do not fit any other interpretation than the premillennial.
  1. Jeremiah 31:35-37 The most famous verses in this chapter come just before this paragraph promising a New Covenant. Then the prophet promises on the sun and stars that the nation of Israel will always be His people. If Israel is still God’s people, then they are distinct from the church. If that is true, then the other prophecies given to them will still be fulfilled as this one.
  1. Isaiah 2:1-4 This passage stands at the head of numerous other passages in the prophets. Unprecedented peace and prosperity. Universal religious purity. Restoration of Israel. This category forces us to a premillennial position. See also Isaiah 11:4-9; 65:17-25; Jer. 3:14-19; 23:1-8; Jer. 30:4-24; etc.

Why do dispensationalists believe in a millennium? Because we see it repeatedly in the words of Christ, His apostles, and the OT prophets. Some dispensationalists sadly diminish the glory of the cross, and some non-dispensationalists sadly diminish the fulness of His glory that will be revealed when He comes again.

 

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The Value of Memory

“The great ancient rhetoricians considered a strong memory indispensable for their craft. Medieval and Renaissance thinkers turned out books and treatises on the art, containing elaborate systems to train the memory to store copious amounts of material and access it instantly. Today we stand amazed at the oratorical skills of political figures of the 19th century and shake our heads in dismay at the sloganeering and soundbites that pass for political discourse today. Our politicians rarely write their own speeches and seem incapable of delivering them without the aid of a teleprompter. Surely something precious has been lost. That something is our memory.”

Andrew Campbell, Living Memory, page 7

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Should Pastors Read Widely?

Reading widely provides a sure-footed stance when a preacher gives facts in teaching and preaching; it produces interesting illustrations; it guides him away from time-wasting topics when evangelizing the particular group to which God has called him; it produces applications that have a ring of authority; it lends credibility to his ethos in preaching; it hints at the blindspots in his own life; it highlights the traces of grace from the image of God in man; it gives him joy in the immense reach of the sovereign hands of Jesus Christ; it tunes his imagination so that all the metaphors of Scripture have brighter colors and return more frequently to his prayers and preaching.

These benefits do not speak against reading the Bible and books that directly deal with Scripture. Yet if there is truth in general revelation, we should not despise it. Unconverted historians, philosophers, and storytellers have found some aspects of truth through God’s common grace the way diamonds were found in Kimberly, South Africa. At first they stumbled on something, and then they had to labor for years. The years they have taken honing their skills are like the infrastructure that goes into making a successful mine. If I am a rich businessman dealing with real estate, I would do well to listen to men who for years have made fortunes from diamonds.

Some examples, historian Martin Meredith helps me when I preach to Tsongas who are subtly self-righteous. They think that the Afrikaners are evil because of apartheid, but when I explain how evil Shaka or Mzilikazi was they are humbled because far greater sins are lurking within their own homes.

Theologian Wayne Grudem’s Politics gives me the statistics to show that government cannot produce wealth and so the Tsongas must not trust or even receive the government grants. Nor should they support through voting those groups that give out grants and thus defeat their own long-term ability to support their own pastor or send out missionaries.

Doing Their Own Thing by philosopher and linguist John McWhorter teaches me that cultures that rebel against absolutes in general and God’s authority in particular will devolve. I use this commonly as I train the young couples and my own children to have godly standards and traditions. I can speak with confidence about sinful musical styles because McWhorter carefully explains how these styles support his godless philosophy.

Wide reading does not draw a man to Christ apart from Scripture anymore than amazing banyan trees save a man. But wide understanding of the world does help us to worship Christ when coupled with knowledge of Scripture.

Reading fiction gives a preacher pictures for the greatest truths in Scripture. Through J. R. R. Tolkien, I saw more clearly than ever before the depths of depravity and the effects of sin as it cripples and corrupts and confounds Gollum. I have seen the need for initiation in friendship because of Sam Gamgee. I have seen what a gentle authority looks like with Aragorn. As pastors read commentaries to gain insights, so I have gained a library of pictures that speak to me daily about the greatest realities in the universe.

A few other recent precious stones that I have quarried out of fiction:

  • Les Miserables: Grace is far more glorious than law. I must learn to default to a gracious, serving spirit.
  • The Scottish Chiefs: True masculinity will not lose its morality even in war.
  • The Iliad: The Greeks thought every turn in life was somehow caused by the gods. Why don’t I see every turn in life as controlled by the one true God?
  • Pride and Prejudice: When men aren’t men, everything goes wrong. Almost all of Austen’s plots revolve around a masculine weakness, and the tension resolves when the men change their ways.

No man can understand Scripture who does not speak the language of metaphor, and therefore, the best fiction bows in front of the preacher offering the most memorable, lasting images of the most rock solid truths.

With all these benefits, there is a danger of loving gift more than Giver, serving the creature more than the Creator—reading widely because we are unspiritual. But the danger is not removed by only reading the Puritans anymore than it would be removed if we plucked out our eyes so as not to see the world around us.

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Three Financial Warnings for Missionaries

  1. Resist the overwhelming urge to think that money will make a church plant successful. As Americans, we think that to have a church means money to rent a building, advertise, pay the pastor, and have transportation. Do not give in to that thinking because it is not found in the NT, and it pulls our hope away from the Holy Spirit as well as the cross.
  1. Make sure the new believers feel the weight of their own responsibility. Every situation is different, but if you are working in a context, where people have few jobs and in general do not provide well for themselves, then what will handouts likely do? In some cultures, their own sin has already robbed them of all but the most basic responsibility. Western money in that place would attract false converts and rice Christians.
  1. If the people know that you have money, and if they know that you can turn it on when you want, then they will tend to view you not as a Christian brother or spiritual father, but rather as a typical white—their potential ticket to some earthly pleasure if they can only manipulate the circumstance.

Here are some articles on this topic: When hurting helps (a review of the book When Helping Hurts).

And if you are new to this thinking, then run—don’t walk—to read Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?.

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The Birth of a New Church

An Indigenous Church
In roughly 15 years of preaching, Paul the apostle visited over 20 places that are listed in Acts leaving churches in each place. Our calling is the same though our gifts and godliness are a shadow of the first Christian missionary. After 10 years of evangelism in the villages around Elim, last week we gathered for the last official meeting with the Elim Baptist Church. As you may recall from our May letter, Alpheus Nyalungu has been ordained as the pastor of the 25 believers there.

What passed through our hearts as we worshipped with them for the last time? The sadness we think we would feel when one of our children leaves the home. The joy that is in the presence of the angels, since one decade ago, all of these who are now dear brothers and sisters were separate from Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world. The fear of future sin, since it is a long and dangerous journey through the narrow gate and to the Celestial City. The hope that these believers would show themselves examples of the faith as the Thessalonians did (1 Thess. 1:6-8).

An Indigenous Building
This week, just before the new year dawned, the church finally gained protection from the rain as we raised the roof. Over the last 4 years, 99% of the labor was done by Tsonga Christians the majority of whom began the process as boys and ended it as men. Lord-willing, the church will use the new building this weekend because the daycare in which we had been worshipping was destroyed in a storm on 24 December! The church’s first service will be conducted in a building without doors, glass in the windows, or the missionary; but they do have bricks, a roof, and the Word of God.

An Indigenous Budget
In November 2012, EBC made the final payment for the land and began digging holes for fence poles. At that time the average monthly offerings were $22 and the estimated building cost was just under $18,000. The membership contained only 4 adults, none of whom were employed. This year, there are 14 adults representing 9 jobs with an average of $285 per month in the offerings. During the building project, the members voted to support a churchplanter in Zimbabwe at 10-15% of their budget, and in 2017, the members voted to raise the missions support to 20% of their budget.

Though the members paid for nearly everything themselves, this year New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg surprised us with a generous offering to cover the entire roof. Without that gift, I am not sure what the church would do now in light of last week’s storm, since none of the members has a home large enough to hold the 30-40 who meet each Sunday. Like David found Barzillai (2 Sam. 19:32), we have found friends along the road as well.

Paul’s Prayers for a Young Church
As we look back at this church, our only hope is found in the Lord of the Church and His reviving Spirit, since both our labors and their maturity are sandy foundations at best. Do labor with us in prayer as Paul did for his beloved Thessalonians.

  1. Thank God for their faith. 1 Thess. 1:2
  2. Pray that these Christians would be models of the faith. 1 Thess. 1:6-7
  3. Pray that the Word of God would sound forth from EBC. 1 Thess. 1:8
  4. Pray that they would increase in love for one another. 1 Thess. 3:12
  5. Pray that each Christian’s heart would be established in holiness. 1 Thess. 3:13
  6. Pray that they would persevere until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Thess. 5:23

Future Plans
Lord-willing tomorrow, we will begin Sunday services with a small group in Valdezia, another village about 25 kilometers northeast of Elim. We must meet at someone’s home under some trees because we do not live there, and it is poorer than Elim. Thankfully, EBC purchased chairs for us to begin this new churchplant. Since August 2015, I and other believers from EBC have been teaching in homes throughout this village of about 15,000. Please pray that God would open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light.

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Should Everyone Speak at the Same Time When Praying?

In many churches, people speak out loud at the same time during their prayer times. Is this a Biblical way to pray? Here are 12 reasons to oppose simultaneous praying, or prayer meetings where multiple people speak at the same time.

  1. All speech in the church should be understood by the other members of the church. 1 Cor. 14:5-6

5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. 6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?

When people pray at the same time, they cannot understand each other, and therefore, they cannot be built up in their faith. Paul repeats this concept throughout the 14th chapter regarding tongues, praying, and prophesy so that we would never disconnect the rational mind from worship. See also, 1 Cor. 14:19.

  1. Some, but not all church members should speak at church. 1 Cor. 14:26, 27, 29

26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; … 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.

Group praying gives everyone a speaking role, when that is not God’s plan for many of His people. Not everyone should be speaking at church. (1 Cor. 12:5-6, 12, 29-30)

  1. Church services must be edifying. 1 Cor. 14:26

26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.

Rational beings cannot become like Christ without the presentation of truth to their minds. The practice of simultaneous praying at church blocks us from comprehending whatever the other believers are doing.

  1. Church services must be orderly. 1 Cor. 14:33, 40

33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. … 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner.

Prop. 1: Scripture condemns confusion in the church.
Prop. 2: Many people speaking different words at the same time is confusion in the church.
Conclusion: Scripture condemns many people speaking different words at the same time.

  1. When a new speaker begins, the previous speaker must be silent. 1 Cor. 14:30

30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.

Everyone likes to talk, but the Spirit-filled man is ready to stop talking if that will bring the greatest good to the other believers.

  1. Simultaneous praying encourages a specific prayer sin that our Lord warned us about. Matt. 6:5-6

5 When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Prayer meetings where everyone speaks at the same time tend to cause people to raise their voices, find catchy phrases, and otherwise enhance their “prayers” in order to be noticed within the crowd.

  1. Since simultaneous praying is a performance, it encourages the repetition of phrases. Matt. 6:7-8

7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Not all the people at a religious gathering will be able to link their words together smoothly, but if they are all told to pray at the same time, then they have to say something. I have heard people in these settings commonly repeat the same phrases and words over and over which is precisely what our Lord was rebuking in the Sermon on the Mount.

  1. Solomon led a great crowd in prayer while they silently listened. 1 Kings 8:22-23, 54, 62

The people apparently listened while Solomon spoke, and then joined him when he offered the sacrifices.

  1. God designed the church to be a united family where they mutually support each other.

At least 54 times in the NT, the church is told to do something to “one another.” The church is not a collection of individuals concerned about their own prosperity, entertainment, or experience, but rather a family that always thinks of each other. If everyone speaks at the same time, they are not loving each other or building each other, they are acting individually.

  1. Simultaneous praying uniquely “makes provision for the flesh.” Rom. 13:14

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

We are tempted to desire the praise of man whenever we perform in a group. We are tempted to entertain those who are listening. We are tempted to impress others with a “good showing in the flesh.” We are tempted to notice ourselves, our words, our audience, our reception rather than the unutterable majesty of God. When a man truly prays he hates and runs from every sin because God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. Why would we use a method that is not commanded in Scripture and that holds company with so many temptations?

  1. The greatest Christians in the history of the church who saw revival, sent out missionaries, and sacrificed for their faith did not pray this way.

Augustine did not advocate this method of prayer. Nor did Calvin, Von Zinzendorf, Wesley, Carey, Paton, or any of the men whom God has greatly used to convert thousands of people. This method is a new invention along with other questionable or clearly sinful practices of the contemporary church.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Heb. 13:7

  1. This method of prayer brings no spiritual blessing with it.

It is not commanded in Scripture. It is not found in Church history. It is spiritually dangerous since it brings numerous temptations. And yet even if you could maneuver past all these dangers, what blessing would you have? Simultaneous prayer gives no blessing that is not also present with a more orderly form of prayer.

No benefits and many dangers. Why would God’s people use this practice?

 

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Optimistic Christians

Should Christians be optimistic about the future of the Church? Ken Gentry couldn’t finish his answer to that question in less than 600 pages in He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology. The book in one sentence: Jesus will slowly conquer the entire world for Christianity through His church before returning physically at the end of time.

Gentry has, for the most part, measured prose and he prefers to tack his arguments down with Scripture rather than history alone. Reading this book confirmed in my mind that amillennialism is not a viable Scriptural option. There are finally only two hermeneutical positions, and if they are followed consistently, then you will either end up with an optimistic, covenantal, baby-baptizing, theonomic worldview in which nearly all Bible prophecies are already fulfilled or a pessimistic, dispensational, credo-baptizing, church-planting worldview in which there are still a number of prophetic difficulties still to be revealed in the future.

Having labored to get into the mind of the author and more importantly this system, here are the top 10 arguments for Postmillennialism in the order that I found them most persuasive.

Ten Best Arguments for Postmillennialism

  1. The parable of the mustard seed teaches gradual and exponential growth. Matt. 13:31-32
    The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.
  2. The parable of the leaven teaches gradual and exponential growth. Matt. 13:33
    The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.
  3. PM teaches a single resurrection and judgment.
    Matt. 13:30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”
    John 6:39-40 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
  4. The natural reading of 1 Corinthians 15:23-24 has no gap between the resurrection and the end of all things.
    But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end,
  5. The natural application of Matt. 21:40-41 to the destruction of Jerusalem and its contextual nearness to Matt. 24.
    Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers? They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.
  6. The weaknesses of amillennial interpretations of OT kingdom prophecies coupled with the weaknesses of premillennial interpretations of NT resurrections.
  7. The “soon” statements in Revelation’s introduction and conclusion imply that the contents of the book would not be waiting 2,000 or more years.
    Rev. 1:1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place;
    Rev. 1:3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.
  8. PM assumes that through His church Christ will conquer, display His glory, defeat sin, and win the war.
    Gen. 3:15 He shall bruise the serpent’s head.
    Matt. 3:2 The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
    Rev. 7:9 After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
  9. It offers a natural reading of Matt. 24:34.
    Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
  10. William Carey, Jonathan Edwards, and Iain Murray all held to this position.

However, that is not the only list this book produced. Again, in order of persuasive power.

Ten Best Arguments Against Postmillennialism

  1. PM requires the Covenant of Grace which unifies the Israel of the OT with the church of the NT.
    Yet Acts 2, 2 Cor. 3, Heb. 8 demand a difference between the old covenant people of God and the new covenant people of God.
  2. PM changes the definition of Israel fluidly—sometimes they will interpret this word to mean the ethnic, OT nation and sometimes it is the church.
    e.g. PM says the word Israel means nation in Isaiah 19:24 In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth,
    But the words Judah and Jerusalem mean the church in Isaiah 2:1-4.
  3. PM cannot stop with partial preterism.
    Preterism is the teaching that most of the prophecies of Scripture are fulfilled in 70 AD when the Jews’ temple was destroyed. That means many passages that seem like they are talking about the second coming of Christ have already taken place. However, that position leads to full preterism which denies that Jesus will return at all.
  4. Numerous difficulties within the Olivet Discourse cannot fit—or only with great difficulty—into AD 70.
    24:7 nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes.
    24:13 the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. Saved from what?
    24:14 Was the Great Commission completed 40 years after the cross?
    24:15 Daniel 11:31; 12:11 happened in AD 70?
    24:21 For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.
    24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders,
    24:27, 30, 37, 39, 44 In PM, the first two “comings” of Christ are in AD 70, and the next three are at the end of the world.
    24:30 All the tribes of the earth will mourn…
    24:30 The Son of Man coming in the clouds…
    24:31 Describes missionaries and not the second coming? 1 Thess. 4:16
    24:34 “All” means each and every, but it does not mean each and every in 24:30.
    24:36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Suddenly, the context leaps forward to the end of the world even though the same terminology is used: day, coming of the Son of Man?
    24:36-51 In PM, this lengthy section deals with the end of the world, not AD 70. Why not just stay with AD 70 like the full preterists?
  5. The Christian is called to suffer until Jesus Christ returns.
    2 Tim. 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
  6. PM finds numerous difficulties in Revelation.
    1:7 “every eye will see him… all the tribes of the earth…” To PM, this means the Jews.
    1:7; 5:6, 9, 13; 8:7; 13:8, 12; 18:3, 23 The book has a universal, worldwide scope, yet PM requires that these terms exclude most of Africa, all South America, all India, and all China. At the most, the universal terms only cover the Roman Empire, which was not even 1/3 of the world’s population at that time.
    11 Strained interpretations throughout this chapter.
    17-19 The harlot is Israel and the Bride is the Church. That interpretation places a harsh distinction between the two peoples that are necessarily unified in CT.
    19:11-21 The return of Christ in this passage has already been fulfilled.
  7. A hermeneutic that tends to see extrabiblical terms as superior to Biblical terms weakens inspiration.
    eg. Church is extra biblical in the prophets; Israel is Biblical.
  8. A tendency to gloss over false Christianity in the name of the church’s triumphs.
  9. A tendency to ignore the wartime lifestyle metaphor for Christian living.
  10. Increased affection for the present world and thus a disinterest in the next world.
    Col. 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.
    Tit. 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,

 

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Three Chains of African Traditional Religion

The animism that is commonly called African traditional religion is one more example of depravity in false religion. Here are three chains with which the demons behind this system bind so many millions on this continent. If you sometimes wonder how to pray for missionaries, pray that God would save people from these traps.

1. The Limited Good Theory
In general the animism of this continent holds to the limited-good theory which stifles all productivity and self-improvement. This theory says that all the wealth in the world is like a bag of apples, once the apples are taken, there are no more. Thus jealousy, laziness, and hopelessness keep them from virtuous ambitions that would allow them to start businesses, build schools, and maintain infrastructure. The Biblical view of the world says that wealth is like an apple tree that can be replanted as long as there are willing farmers.

2. Vocabulary
The animism of this continent obscures discussion of abstract ideas so that the mind is shackled, a self-imposed inability through long practice that blocks them from extended reflection on the great issues of life. As one example among many, Tsonga, Venda, and Shona (representing around 15-18 million people) have no words for “right” and “wrong” among many other vital concepts. (Such as “vital” and “concept.”)

3. Uncertainty
The animism of this continent preserves haziness on the main topics of life. Why am I here? Where am I going? What can I do with my sin? With so many changing, capricious spirits, each unknowable, we cannot hope for any definite or specific knowledge. Questions about life and death are answered by one great guess or distraction after another. Those who have been influenced by this religion have a 3 meter wall placed between them and the solid answers to the vital issues of life.

These—and others like them—are the great terrors of this demonic religion which only the gospel can eradicate. Paul’s calling 2,000 years ago is still ours, “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” As proof of this verse, a number of dear believers are breaking from these bands as their minds are renewed by Scripture.

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A Christian Response to the Fees Must Fall Movement

In October 2015, students at university campuses across SA began protesting that the fee increases of 10.5% were too high. These fees were based on increasing costs of materiaenhanced-buzz-wide-22080-1445530265-18ls, inflation, and teacher’s salaries. The students demanded no increase in the fees for the services they were receiving. Between the government and the university heads, the students’ demands were met for that year.

But this year the fees had to be raised again. Beginning in August 2016, students began peacefully protesting around the country on campuses. As part of this protest, they also blocked some roads and buildings as well as stopping fellow students from entering the schools. Because of these student protests, the universities expanded their security eventually to the police force. Now, these young people want to “shut down the universities.” To carry out this goal, there has been R600 million property damage already. 1306853118That is the equivalent of 220 km’s of tar road. Some are demanding entirely free education rather than merely release from the year’s increase.

Scripture speaks often to the poor and about the poor even featuring poor prophets and leaders throughout the Bible. Jesus and many of the early Christians were poor. The prophets of the OT rebuked Israel often for the way they handled the poor. Further, in this country in the past, blacks have been treated with a harsh, confining hand.

Since around 75% of the country claims to be Christian, how should a Christian respond? Should they support the Fees Must Fall movement (also called #FeesMustFall), or oppose it? Should they blend support and opposition? To answer these questions, I will use a moral syllogism to compare a Biblical teaching with a modern situation.

Stealing is a terrible sin.
The first proposition comes from Scripture, and the second comes from the current state of affairs in the country. What is stealing? The question is more complicated than it appears at first glance.

You shall not steal. Deut. 5: 19

As a first definition, stealing is taking what is not yours. Thieves do this taking by force or deception. The thieves used force on the man traveling to Jericho (Luke 10:30). Ahab used deception to take Naboth’s land (1 Kings 21:6-10). But there is more to stealing than that.

He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. Eph. 4:28

What is the opposite of stealing in this passage? Labor. Then a second definition of stealing is gaining wealth without permission or work.

Stealing implies the doctrine of private property. Theft doesn’t exist in a universe where everyone owns everything. Property is wealth that belongs to or is owned by someone—owning and belonging are the central ideas broken by stealing.

1 “You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. 2 If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. 3 Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them.” Deut. 22:1-3

These words forever establish the doctrine of private ownership or personal property. You must neither take nor ignore someone’s donkey. (22:1) You cannot assume property that is lost. (22:2) If you happen on the chance to take property that someone has lost, you must be quick to return it to the owner. (22:3) Is this spirit common in our country? If your wallet or phone was lost, how many people out of 100 would return it? Moses certainly wrote this law intending it to be a broad principle governing all property because in verse 3 he says it can be anything lost that belongs to your neighbor. Protecting property rights and ownership are the heart behind the command: Do not steal.

Once when traveling to Mozambique, I saw a sign in a village near the Pafuri Gate which said in Tsonga, “Xa mina i xa wena.” In English, “What’s mine is yours.” If this were merely a statement of neighborly generosity, then it would be fitting with Jesus Christ’s teaching. However, it is very common to find cloudy views of ownership in rural Africa promoted by the traditional religion from where this saying originated.

In modern times, there are two popular economic systems that deny private property—Socialism and communism. These are two very similar economic systems with one great fundamental idea binding them together: Government must control private property. Socialism attempts to do this through legislation in generally more peaceful settings, and communism attempts to do this through a military revolution. In short, socialists look for government to control property, and communists work for the same thing with guns. In both cases, government takes some or all control of property.

Since private property is so basic to Christianity, both socialism and communism struggle to even define the word “steal.” How can you prohibit or punish theft, if ownership and property are unclear? Therefore a third definition of actions that tend to erase the importance of private property under normal circumstances.

The history of the Bible supplies many examples of thievery so that we can test our definitions by the actual cases in Scripture itself. The Westminster Larger Catechism lists 32 different kinds of stealing (Questions 141-142).ctxkif0wgaaofwl

  • Robbers with guns. Luke 10:30
  • Kidnapping and slave trade. Ex. 21:16
  • Tricking customers when you sell. Pro. 11:1
  • Dodging taxes. Rom. 13:7
  • Taking something that you find without trying to return it. Deut. 22:1-3
  • Receiving a gift that you know was stolen. 1 Kings 21:16
  • Living off the wealth of others without working. Eph. 4:28 with 2 Thess. 3:10-11
  • Increased taxes. 1 Sam. 9:7 and 10-18

How bad is stealing? What are its effects on society? Stealing impoverishes society by loss of goods and increased costs. It associates the thief with Satan, one of whose names is Thief (John 10:10). It denies private property which is a fundamental assumption in the laws against stealing. Stealing destroys the wealth, religion, and stability of a society.

In summary, taking wealth and benefits without work or permission or subtly reducing the line between your neighbors property and your own is the terrible sin of stealing.

The Bible condemns theft, and therefore all Christians must as well. Yet the most difficult part of making ethical decisions is often comparing the text of Scripture with the present day. Let us now look at what these students are doing. What are they doing, and what are they trying to do? What is their goal?

The goal of the Fees Must Fall Movement is stealing.
At first, let me acknowledge that the people involved in this movement would probably not admit this is their goal. But part of being a faithful minister is to use words the way God uses them.

What is the “Fees Must Fall Movement” (FMF)? It is an effort to get free higher education for most of the citizens of SA. If you make less than R600,000, the minister of higher education promised to have the government pay for the fee increases. This is more than what Section 29 of the Constitution promises: a “right to basic education,” but not a right to university.

The FMF wants to help poor people, and a genuine desire to serve the poorest in ways that we will lead to the greatest good is a Christian virtue. But “no increases” is not enough for many in this movement. They want free higher education. What is this but a desire for goods and services for which they have not paid? Who is paying? Certainly not the students who are protesting—at least they don’t foresee themselves paying directly. Someone of course has to pay for these fees. Who is that? Does this other party want to pay? Is the other party receiving the benefit? If someone does not receive any benefit, but they are forced to pay, isn’t that the Bible’s definition of theft?

Further, by damaging private property, they have taken that property as their own already before it was given to them justly or unjustly.

Behind the FMF demands are some assumptions (presuppositions) that lie quietly in the background.

  1. “We all deserve education.” free-educationr
    A Christian thinks that as a man he deserves freedom from government intervention and his own private property. As a sinner, he deserves God’s judgment for eternity. There is no category in Scripture for talking about great rights outside of these basic expectations. Jesus, the apostles, and the greatest Christians did not have formal education.
  1. “Education should be free.”
    Do not steal. An education is a service that must be acquired by work, not a gift that God gives indiscriminately to all men such as air, rain, and sunshine.
  1. “Education must be decolonized.”
    Our Lord called Himself the Way and the Truth. There is no “colonial truth” and “African truth” just like there are not different Messiahs for each ethnicity. As Christians our goal should be to advance in truth, regardless of the color of the person who brings us this rare commodity.

 

  1. “Education must make all ethnic groups feel good about their values.”
    Some ethnic values come from false religion and will tend to destroy happiness, wealth, and prosperity.
  • Islamic polygamy
  • Islamic wife-beating
  • Female circumcision in North Africa
  • Suttee in ancient India
  • The caste system of Hinduism
  • The European slave trade
  • Afrikaans apartheid

None of these practices are good, but all of them were sired from some false religious commitments and embodied in a culture. A true education serves young minds by finding for them solid footing not good feelings.

  1. “Education is a basic right.”
    Do the laws in the OT provide for education for all the children in Israel? No. When God arranged a perfect society on earth through the nation of Israel, He did not require the government or the heads of families to give education to all.
  1. “Those who have more money should pay for those who have less money.”
    “The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel,” Ex. 30:15

    The OT required an even 10% or a single amount payable by everyone. The rich were free to help the poor, but there was no requirement—no government redistribution of private property.

  1. “The goal of life is a good job and a comfortable way of life.”
    In general, the FMF protesters are more interested in a salary than an education. Are students consuming more books or more media? Are they spending extra money on fashions or tools to increase their knowledge? Are they willing to work while they study? Would they still be willing to attend the institutions if they received a high quality education, but no paper confirming that?
  1. “The government can give wealth away without any consequences.”
    Wealth must be created by hard work (Gen. 1:26 and Eph. 4:28). The government has no wealth unless it takes from citizens. Someone may respond that the government is paying and the government does now “want” to pay since it has been persuaded by the people. However, that is assuming the government has wealth.
  1. “The world is stacked against black people.”
    Even if we grant that conclusion for the sake of the discussion, the free market removes most of the effects of racism, and it removes those sinful tendencies far better than other systems. As Thomas Sowell points out in Basic Economics, companies in the US that didn’t hire blacks after the Civil War eventually lost business and some closed down. The cheaper services of the black Americans eventually gained them a client base. This is why the greatest way to reduce racism is to make sure the markets are entirely free from government control. FMF is a tidal wave of pressure on government to take more money and then dedicate it to universities.

These assumptions oppose the Christian ideas of private property and personal responsibility. This collection urges young people to get without work, to use the government as a tool to force redistribution. The de-emphasis (and literal destruction) of private property, the anticipation of raised taxes as the solution, and the disinterest in working for personal benefits classify the FMF movement as an organized expression of stealing.

My argument has followed a simple syllogism.

  • Proposition 1: Stealing is a terrible sin.
  • Proposition 2: The goal of the FMF movement is stealing.

If both of these are true, then the conclusion must follow:

  • The goal of the FMF movement is a terrible sin.

But is the word “terrible” justified? How bad is the FMF movement?

The goal of the FMF movement is a terrible sin.
Since it is stealing, it will bring God’s ultimate wrath on those involved. Stealing is a sin that God will judge with the fierceness of His wrath unless each thief hides Himself under the protection of Jesus Christ. And we know that whoever is born of God, does not continue in sin (1 John 3:9). It is terrible because of future judgment.

Since it represents foolish and unscriptural thinking about economics, it will ultimately trap poor Africans in even stronger chains of poverty. The FMF movement represents Marxist thought which has never raised a country to prosperity. The only hope for poor Africans is a mindset that urges them to create wealth rather than a mindset that urges them to redistribute wealth.

Since it encourages violence, covetousness, laziness, and a shirking of personal responsibility, it will lead the nation to greater instability than the founders of the movement ever foresaw. They have promised to shut down the universities and some have even threatened to shut down the country.fees-must-fall

Since it ignores history, it is doomed to failure. Does anyone travel to Tanzania or Zimbabwe or North Korea or China or Venezuela for education? Each of these countries tried to play the socialist and communist game, and their economies are not the first choice for tourism nor high standards of living.

Since the students are not thinking about the future generations, only about themselves, it promises dangerous times for our children. Socialist economies are historically weak, but African socialist economies are often disasters such as Julius Nyerere’s Tanzania in the 1970’s. Why isn’t the wealth in that country from the 1960’s serving the present generation? South Africa will look similar if they follow a similar economic path.

Since it distracts from eternity, it will damage the efforts of soulwinners and evangelists. Wayne Grudem’s interesting The Poverty of Nations reminds us that the main difference between rich and poor nations is a mindset. That mindset could best be summarized as a Christian worldview that finds its foundation in a regenerated heart. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the answer to Africa’s poverty. But since the FMF focus is on this earth, their great need will only be pressed further into the shadows.

Common Objections

  1. “We can’t afford education.”
    First, a lack of money to buy education is no justification for stealing education. Second, if anyone really wants to learn there are libraries and many free resources available for those who are hungry for knowledge. Third, it may take several generations before a majority of the people are able to reach a higher level of formal training. Historically, we must not forget that colleges and universities are a relatively new phenomena.
  1. “Communism is in the Bible.”
    Yes, Acts 4:32-37 records a kind of Christian communism, but there are vital differences between what happened then and what is being advocated now. First, those who shared their goods were all and only Christians. Second, they were experiencing a great revival so that each of them was willing to work hard and deny themselves. Third, they were experiencing persecution for their commitment to Jesus Christ. Fourth, it was limited in time and geography. There is no evidence that all the Christian churches did this, but the opposite. Paul taught many churches to have private property.
  1. “Jesus told us to love and help each other.”
    Helping people to think correctly about long-term wealth creation is the most loving thing we can for the present lives on earth. Socialism is no more loving than confirming someone in their deeply held belief in a lie.
  1. “This is justice as a way of fixing the consequences of apartheid.”
    Should we fix one injustice with another? Should black taxpayers have to pay for the universities to correct the problems of apartheid? Should whites who opposed apartheid? How long do these retributive taxes stay in effect? Expensive universities are not a legacy of apartheid, but of foolish governments who print fiat currency.
  1. “Other countries do this.”
    That is no way to think about ethical or theological difficulties. Let us start with examining the goodness, truth, and beauty of a proposition in light of the Bible.
  1. “Blacks are still suffering while whites are comfortable.”
    If we care about the poorest people, then we must not accept short-sighted solutions to their problems. A starving person needs food, not a hallucinogenic drug. The question we should ask is, “What character must each member of society have in order for that society to be rich?” The solution is not found in money because the real question has little to do with it.

No short cuts
Christians work hard for their wealth rather than taking goods and services by force. If we love the poorest people, then we will not promote something that hurts them. And a solution that is unscriptural will certainly hurt the poorest (Deut. 6:24).

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The Friendly Enemy or The Dangerous Friend

There are two cultures, they are in fierce opposition to each other, and it is necessary for a great debate to ensue about the matter… First, technology is a friend. It makes life easier, cleaner, and longer. Can anyone ask more of a friend? Second, because of its lengthy, intimate, and inevitable relationship with culture, technology does not invite a close examination of its own consequences. It is the kind of friend that asks for trust and obedience, which most people are inclined to give because its gifts are truly bountiful. But of course, there is a dark side to this friend. Its gifts are not without a heavy cost. … The uncontrolled growth of technology destroys the vital sources of our humanity. It creates a culture without a moral foundation. It undermines certain mental processes and social relations that make human life worth living. Technology, in sum, is both friend and enemy.

Neil Postman, Technopoly, published in 1992!

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