The eighth and final chapter of A Case for Historic Premillennialism is entitled Premillennial Tensions and Holistic Missiology, Latin American Evangelicalism, written by Oscar A. Campos. Before I get into the subject matter, I think it speaks well of Historic Premillennialists to include Campos as an author in this book. Campos identifies himself as a progressive dispensationalist. Yet his views line up more closely with Historic Premillennialism than with Classic Dispensationalism. While this book has the goal of distinguishing itself from Dispensationalism, it is obvious that they don’t want to alienate dispensationalists from their position, but rather to have them examine it. Including a progressive dispensationalist as an author shows graciousness toward other likeminded premillennialists.
At first I thought I would not enjoy this chapter. It seemed to focus on the missions approach in Latin America and I thought would have little to do with eschatology. As I progressed through the theme, I realized that the missions approach in Latin America was directly related to the theology and eschatology of those who brought the gospel there. Dispensationalism was the main vehicle which drove the preaching of the gospel in this area of the world. Yet because of the weaknesses of dispensationalism (Campos asserts), social issues were relegated to a minor role. In fact, anyone concerned with addressing these issues became suspect.
Because of the strong emphasis on a future kingdom, only the announcing portion of evangelization was carried out. Since dispensationalism teaches that the kingdom was postponed, there would be no need to perform any kingdom work, only to announce the kingdom message. To be sure, this approach stressing individual salvation allowed the gospel to be preached rapidly throughout Latin America. All the while, though, social affairs were of little importance. These things would be taken care of in the future kingdom of God.
At some point, there was a shift in the approach in Latin America due to Samuel Escobar and others. The subject in review was the kingdom of God. With Christ as Lord over all creation, the missionary task of the church where His Lordship is proclaimed became viewed as an extension of the kingdom of God. “The church exists for missions!” A holistic view of man shows that he not only needs individual salvation, but also as a transformed social being, he must function in a community of others proclaiming the kingdom message. Much time is spent examining the missionary scholars who concluded that the kingdom is a present reality in the lives of Christians even during this present dispensation. We see there is both an “already” and “not yet” aspect to the Kingdom of God. Now I will quote Campos as he explains Rene Padilla’s views.
Padilla stated that “the mission of the church can be understood only in light of the kingdom of God” and that to define the relationship between the kingdom and the church and the relationship between the kingdom and the world separately would be incomplete. They are related. The kingdom of God is “an eschatological reality that is both the starting point and the goal of the church.” In this sense, the church is related to the kingdom as the “new society,” the community of the kingdom. The church is “the community of the kingdom in which Jesus is acknowledged as Lord of the universe and through which, in anticipation of the end, the kingdom is concretely manifested in history.” This eschatology called for a revision of Latin American ecclesiology, a revision that can be found in later publications.
According to Padilla , the present manifestation of the eschatological kingdom of God provides the framework for a holistic missiological approach. The “paradigm,” the model for the mission of the church, is Jesus: Jesus proclaimed the gospel, the good news of the kingdom, and presented the signs of the kingdom. Padilla presents at least three facets of Jesus’s life that believers should interpret and follow: (a) the example of his incarnation (involvement in the real situations of people), (b) the example of his ministry (proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom especially to the poor, teaching “all the things that Jesus commanded” and serving people in their physical needs), and (c) the example of his death and resurrection (the cost of complete sacrifice).
There is certainly much bantering of positions within this essay. There are the liberal or emergent views on one side of the equation; then there are the strict fundamentalist views on the other side. All in all, Campos researches what occurred in Latin America to show that a balanced approach for missions was developed due to a balanced approach of eschatology. In the conclusion, Campos clarifies some of the dispensationalist positions. He shows that reforms have been made within dispensationalism in much the same way that progress was made in Latin American missions, which reforms now include a present aspect of the kingdom of God.
While not appreciating this topic at first, I now view it as highly relevant. If we are to preach the gospel, what does it mean? Is it simply a message to tell people? Or are we to live out the kingdom life before its final manifestation? Are social issues our concern? For those who want to explore such questions, this chapter lays an excellent foundation, even if it does start with pragmatics and work its way backward to some extent.
This concludes my series reviewing the book A Case For Historic Premillennialism, edited by Craig L. Blomberg and Sung Wook Chung. Hopefully we will see more literature from this point of view in the future.
Have fun and stay busy – Luke 19:13
-The Orange Mailman