It is no secret to readers of this blog that I am postmill in my eschatological convictions. It is also no secret that I am something of a cultural critic — things all around us, at least according to me, seem to be falling apart. This apparent dichotomy used to bug me too — back before I was embraced by historical optimism twenty-five years or so ago. All the most cogent criticisms of how screwed up everything was were coming from postmillennialists. Couldn’t figure it out. But after all the postmill happy thoughts were settled in my mind, it made much better sense to me. The kingdom of God does not take off like a space shuttle. Rather, it is like walking up a long, slow, sloping mountain side. Take the large picture, and genuine progress is being made. That does not mean that there are no valleys, gulches, or canyons that you have to go through on the way, and that you might get lost in for a bit. Western culture is currently stuck in Dry Gulch, Wyoming, and I am saying it is time to hit the trail again.
But what about Great Britain? I am best acquainted with what is going on in the English-speaking world, and in that respect have long considered Great Britain to be the canary in our particular mine. What is going on there is bound to work so badly that our intellectual elites will insist on trying it here, with great fanfare. That is another issue — why do insecure and pathetic Americans do that? Suffice it to say that, on any Christian analysis, Great Britain is in a bad way.
The meaning of my title is meant to be provocative, and is meant to be tied in to some provocative particular truths as well. Sometimes people come to postmill convictions, but they then stretch human history out to such an extent that this blessing they envisage assumes a “somewhere over the rainbow” status. But this will actually happen, in history. Great Britain was a Christian nation once, and will be so again.
So I believe and hope that this Great Britain will be turned around in repentance. I am obviously not claiming to have prophethic gifts — this is just what I see happening. But for that small band who are praying and laboring for this, their prayers also need to be aimed at those things which would have to happen if such a thing were to happen. The whole would be made up of certain particular parts. Some of them would look something like this:
1. British evangelicals will abandon all attempts to worship God in happy-clappy attempts to dumb the faith down to the ever-diminishing level of spiritual interest among the general populace. British evangelicals have, for a century or more, been chasing Matthew Arnold’s receding tide out, lawn chairs under their arms, trying to guess where they could comfortably sit along the edge of this nationwide loss of faith. But the water keeps receding, and so the Christians keep moving too, and by now many Christians have withdrawn to a cozy place at home, and content themselves by looking at a picture of the ocean, and trying to explain it to the kids. “Your great-grandfather saw the ocean once.”
2. British evangelicals will establish churches that will return to worshipping God with reverence and godly fear. Not the mumbo-chatter of the liturgical homos, and not a breezy attempt to worship God in the same casual way you would attempt to go to a backyard birthday party for your five-year-old. Reverence and godly fear in worship will include solemnity, joy, exuberence, dignity, more joy, robust psalm-singing, powerful preaching, faithful observence of the Supper. Nothing dead about it, and nothing flippant about it.
3. British evangelicals will recover a sense of the necessity of Christendom, as well as the glory of it. They will become convinced that the faults of the first Christendom, which were great and many, are simply to be taken as cautionary tales. Let’s try to avoid those in the second Christendom, shall we?;
4. British evangelicals will abandon their schizophrenic dualism and will begin speaking to numerous issues of the day in the name of Jesus Christ. Christian relevance would quit worrying about how big the sanctuary’s carbon footprint was, and start worrying about the broken-Decalogue footprint. There is a difference between chasing the world’s idolatrous jags, hungry for worldly respect, and actually telling the world what the Bible actually teaches about everything. Churches will install a stained glass window dedicated to Abraham Kuyper, or, if possible, an equivalent Brit;
5. Islam will be identified for the public and civic enemy that it is, and treated accordingly;
6. The swollen nanny state will be identified for what it is — a socialist cancer;
7. The hearts of fathers will be turned back to their children, and the hearts of the children will be turned back to their fathers. Christian families will be knit back together in line with the Scripture’s teaching on the family, and this will result in a great resurgence of genuinely Christian education for the kids.
8. British evangelicals will return, of necessity, to a high-octane, jet-fuel postmillennialism. They will be asked, “how can you have such great hope in times like this?” And the answer will be that the times are so perilous that nothing will suffice but a great hope.
All this will be accomplished, in the hands of God, by the central instruments of faithful worship and preaching. God will raise up vertebrate ministers and preachers who will push the limits of what it means to be an English gentleman. They will be great troublers of Israel for a time, Ahab will be fit to be tied, and they will be in a great deal of trouble. But I pray they are coming soon enough that we could ask my grandkids to name their children after them.