Paul Washer, and the Natural Optimism of the True Christian Warrior
The world and the church’s needs are greater then ever, and so are the opportunities. The stage is set for possibly the greatest advancement in missions the church has ever known. Political upheavals have opened the door to countries that were previously closed, and all the great “ism’s” of secular man have fallen under the weight of their own error. Humanism has left our world disillusioned and cynical. Secular thought has left it soulless and empty. Materialism has left both the “haves” and the “have not’s” miserable and constantly at war. Sexual libertarianism has raped the individual of human dignity, exiled beauty, and driven a knife through the heart of innocence. Finally, the current revival of paganism has left men praying to rocks, hugging trees, and killing babies. The enlightenment of the twentieth century, which was to bring peace and prosperity has spawned more ignorance, poverty, immorality, and violence then any scholar could have predicted or any prophet could have foretold. It is a day to do great things.
Okay, okay, I’ll admit from the very beginning: Of the Baptist preachers in this nation, I prefer Voddie Baucham over Paul Washer. Nothing against Washer’s preaching; it is remarkably good and instructive, and his theology is Biblical. The reason is rather personal: I am a military man, and I respect raw power. And boy, does Voddie have it! He can beat me up with his right hand tied behind his back, carrying a backpack with an 80lbs concrete-mix bag in it. Gotta be careful around those big Baptist preachers, like Charles Spurgeon. Or Voddie Baucham.
May be, if I have any complaints against Paul Washer, they would be not against what he says but what he doesn’t say. I’d like him to cover more topics. He knows very well that the Bible speaks to many more issues than the Christian family and our personal spiritual growth. And he can talk to those many more issues. He has chosen not to, most of the time. But that’s fine. He’s got his preferred areas. And by the way, our young men need what he has to say.
I probably would find an issue with his eschatology, if I ever heard him talk about it. He is officially a premillennialist, as far as I know from other people. I never heard him talk about it. If I do, I’d have a problem.
On the other hand, Jerry Falwell was officially a dispensationalist. And he did say quite a few not very wise things motivated by his eschatology. But by and large, the man was a man of God, and was a soldier for the faith. I am still waiting for the day when an honest account of the influence and the role of Moral Majority will be written by a historian. In my view, what Jerry Falwell did was a real example of incremental steps; unlike some modern celebrities who ask us to vote for Romney and claim it is an “incremental step.”
Theologically, Jerry Falwell spoke like a dispensationalist. Practically, he acted like a postmillennialist. His heart refused to follow his pessimistic eschatology; it was the heart of a Christian warrior that refuses to accept defeat, whether in eternity or in history. Rushdoony talked about “covert theonomists” (Chalcedon Report No. 223, February, 1984). Jerry Falwell showed all the signs of a covert postmillennialist.
And so does Paul Washer in the quote above.
It has always been amusing to me when I visit churches who are officially premillennial or amillennial in their eschatology, to listen to the hymns they are singing. It is especially amusing around Christmas time when most of the hymns are Christmas carols. I have never been able to discern a single pessimistic hymn about history. My favorite, of course, is “Joy to the World.” At least once in my life, I have been to a church where the preacher preached on the inevitable coming of the Antichrist, that we need to prepare for the day of evil, that history is going to be a dark tale of decay and destruction . . . and after the sermon, the concluding hymn for the service was “Joy to the World.” I was chuckling to myself of the obvious irony of people who with their minds listen to and believe a pessimistic eschatology, and then their hearts are quickened and inspired by a postmillennial song which declares the victory of Christ in history and on earth.
It is the nature of the fallen man to be pessimistic about everything, including history. After man was cast out of the Garden, he was on his own against a world that was hostile to him. Even the advances he made would not bring hope to his heart for they were achieved by his own powers. How would he know if “fate” wouldn’t face him with something stronger and more vicious which his powers wouldn’t be able to overcome? His growing weakness was a burden on him. Moreover, his sin, spreading throughout his very being and throughout his society was another burden on him. Aging and death spelled for him hopelessness, both in history and in eternity.
No wonder all pagan religions and philosophies were pessimistic. The Egyptians saw no progress in history. The best they could hope for was to stop history, to preserve the world in a state that would never change, for all changes were demonic and dangerous. The Greek mythology talked about the degradation of mankind in history: gold, silver, brass, and iron age. The Romans, always practical in their religion, tried to devise in the time of Augustus a political system that would stop any change and return the world back to the golden age of the early Republic. The pagan religions of China, India, and America are pessimistic about history as well. The reason is: Pessimism about history is part of the fallen nature of man. When man lost his ability to do good, he lost his ability to expect good; when man faced a hostile world of thorns and thistles, he faced a grim future that gave no promise and no hope.
To give a Biblical illustration, pagan pessimism is the attitude of the people of Jericho as expressed by Rahab in Joshua 2:11: “Our hearts melted.”
It was only in the last two centuries, in the European civilization living in the shadow of Christendom, that unbelievers tried to devise philosophical and ideological systems based on optimism about the future. But their optimism was not consistent; it was only borrowed from the Christian worldview. Marx openly admitted in his address to the Hague Congress (1872) that he modeled his optimism after the “Christians of old.” Such borrowed optimism lacked foundation. Eventually, it was lost. Optimism about the future was lost in the Soviet Union only 10 years after the Communist victory. And modern humanism, initially optimistic, has resulted in more hopelessness and despair than any of the previous pagan religions. As Paul Washer said in the quote above, it has left our world “disillusioned and cynical.” Only Christianity has the foundation for long-term, consistent optimism about history, and the ideological tools to achieve any improvements in history.
It is the nature of the redeemed man to be optimistic about everything, including history. Once the moral foundation for optimism is restored in the heart of man, he inevitably expects better things, both of history and of eternity. The world is not hostile anymore, for the creation is gradually redeemed by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:18-25). If everything works together for good to those who love God (Romans 8:28), then the whole history is a string of events that bring more and more victory to the people of God, in history. A redeemed man who lives by faith can not afford to be pessimistic about history for that would be a rejection of the Biblical passages which give these promises. His ability to do good restored, his ability to expect good is restored too. History, which is covenantal judgment on the unredeemed man, is now covenantal reward for the redeemed man (Deuteronomy 28).
The Biblical illustration for the true expectations of a redeemed mind can be summed up by the words of Joshua and Caleb in Numbers 14:9: “They will be food for us.”
So when theologians devise eschatological systems which support historical pessimism, these eschatological systems are not the product of a mind renewed, redeemed, and justified by grace. They are a remnant – a hangover, if you want – of the old nature of man, that unredeemed nature that was used to regard the world and history as essentially hostile to man. Premillennialism and amillennialism are both based on the idea that in the cultural clash between the Christian and the world the world will increasingly gain the upper hand; or at best, according to what some call “optimistic amillennialism,” the clash will result in a stalemate until the end of history. Both eschatological systems are simply exegetical justifications of the expectations of an unregenerate mind.
The Biblical illustration for the historical expectations of a premillennialist or amillennialist would be Numbers 13:31: “They are too strong for us.”
Washer’s quote above shows that his heart is in the right place. He is a committed Christian warrior, and a committed Christian warrior naturally expects victory in history and on earth. Only a truly redeemed heart can exclaim that the stage is set for great advancements, and that this is the day to do great things. Other theologians reason that we “live in an evil age,” or that our world must be called a “post-Christian world,” or that “Christians should learn how to live in an increasingly pagan culture.” Washer seems to disagree with these assessments, and he seems to expect that pagan culture to retreat before the Christian missionaries. He doesn’t explain how this is compatible with his officially premillennial views. But then, neither do so many churches explain how their hymns agree with their sermons.
I agree with the expectations of his heart.
And I am waiting for the day when his mind will agree with his heart.