Saturday, February 26, 2011

Evangelical Millennialism in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500-2000


Crawford Gribben's latest book carries on the theme he first outlined in this book which I blogged about before. His new one is entitled Evangelical Millennialism in the Trans-Atlantic World, 1500-2000 (available here on Amazon). The promotional leaflet says this:

This book offers the first complete overview of the intellectual history of one of the most significant contemporary cultural trends. In the early seventeenth century, European evangelicals recovered those expectations of an earthly golden age that had been deemed heretical by medieval and reformation theologians. Throughout early modernity, and across the spectrum of evangelical belief, these millennial expectations were deployed to mount a series of radical critiques of church and wider culture. In modernity, these expectations were appropriated by religious and cultural conservatives, who found in millennial theology the framework of their hostility to an unbelieving world and a rationale for their critical engagement with it – a critical engagement that ranged from an attempt at the wholesale reconstruction of a Christian society to an expectation of its imminent and catastrophic demise. This account guides readers into the origins, evolution, and revolutionary potential of evangelical millennialism in the trans-Atlantic world.

It's a contentious, yet deeply influential subject. Particular denominations embrace it, others reject it. Some individuals spend more time trying to work out which emerging world leader might be Antichrist rather than getting to grips with Christ! Some prefer to speculate about the future rather than to understand, and apply, the lessons of the past.

Talking to a Presbyterian friend the other day, he said that his church was about to begin a study on Daniel. Unable to resist a bit of theological banter, I said "Great - will you be getting stuck in to the 70 weeks?", to which he laughed out loud and said, "No, we'll be sticking to the bits that are true, none of that other nonsense!". Philip Thompson tweeted a quote from Alastair Begg last week: "chronology - theology = mythology" !. There's so much divergence within the Protestant denominations that sometimes I wonder if the all-embracing term is even useful any more. But the big charts and diagrams are visually brilliant - I remember seeing a hand-painted one in a mission hall about 30 years ago that was so big it filled the entire back wall and stretched round the corner onto one of the side walls too. A detail of a printed one of mine is below. Click to enlarge.