George Eldon Ladd’s Response to Postmillennialism

One of the early “four views” books was edited by Robert G. Clouse and titled The Meaning of the Millennium.

George Eldon Ladd represented the historic premil position, Herman A. Hoyt dispensational premillennialism, Loraine Boettner postmillennialism, and Anthony A. Hoekema amillennialism. Each contributor responds to the presentations made by each of the others, and typically the responses are 3-4 pages. The exception is Ladd’s reply to Boettner’s argument for postmillennialism, which is a mere two paragraphs and 147 words. The first sentence is telling, but I here reproduce the whole of Ladd’s response:

‘There is so little appeal to Scripture that I have little to criticize. The argument that the world is getting better is a two-edged sword. One can equally well argue from empirical observation that the world is getting worse. In New Testament times, civilization enjoyed the great Pax Romana—two centuries when the Mediterranean world was at peace. This has never been repeated. Our lifetime has seen two worldwide wars and an unending series of lesser wars—in Korea, Vietnam, the Near East, Ireland, Lebanon. We have witnessed the rise of Nazism with its slaughter of six million Jews, the rise and fall of fascism, the rise and stabilization of Communist governments. The world today is literally an armed camp.

Boettner makes the mistake of defining premillennialism in terms of dispensationalism. As my chapter shows, I do not pursue the literalistic hermeneutic attributed to ‘premillennialists’ by Boettner.’

That’s all Ladd has to say about it!

I submit that any advance postmillennialism may be making today is attributable entirely to the florid prose of Douglas Wilson. There is no biblical warrant for it.

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  1. When I read George Eldon Ladd’s essay in Clouse’s book, I bursted out loud with laughter. All the points he makes are vaild. I wholeheartedly agree with your assertion that there’s no biblical warrant for postmillennialism.

    Now, I agree and disagree with your statement that Douglas Wilson is responsible for any recent advancements of postmillennialism. I’d qualify that statement by saying that Mr. Wilson exerts a considerable influence on those within the Reformed camp. The CREC denomination is proof of Wilson’s influence along with others.

    It’s been my impression that another individual has exerted way more influence than Douglas Wilson ever will. C. Peter Wagner’s brand of postmillennialism has caught on like wildfire within the Charismatic/Pentecostal (CP) wing of the church. In fact, many of the newer CP churches that I know about have embraced Wagner’s brand of Dominion Theology, which is the bedrock of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement.

  2. Sorry Mr. Hamilton, but you should have at least read and posted Boettner’s section in that book. Being quite sympathetic to a postmil view myself, I was greatly disappointed with Boettner’s presentation. That said, Ladd would have something far more biblical to deal with if he were to engage with someone like K. Gentry. If you want to understand post-millenialism read Gentry or Mathison.

    1. Also Mr. Hamilton, with all respect, your note about D. Wilson (whether good or bad) ignores solid men like John M. Otis propounding a biblical post-mil view. If you want to respond to post mil views, please do so at their greatest arguments.

  3. From my understanding of Wilson’s position this quote really doesn’t deal with Wilson’s postmillennialism.

    I believe Wilson’s view does NOT say the entire world is getting better.

  4. Pretty sure the Doug Wilson comment was a reference to the round table discussion at a Piper conference (DG? Pastors? I can’t remember) and just a slight on other PostMill folks…

  5. I stumbled across this blog, and thought, being a postmillennialist or something in that category, that I might make a contribution to the discussion by stating the biblical reasons why I became one. First, let say I came up under the pre-mil pre-trib views of Dr. R.G. Lee and Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, plus I had read many of the writings on the subject (without trying hardly I accumulated probably 200 vols. in eschatology (primarily pre-mil pre-trib. In any case, my change began with a question about ’67 or ’68 from a fellow I consider the wisest man I ever met. He asked: “Have you ever thought about the fact that at any one time ever last soul on the face of the earth could be the elect of God?” I answered no, of course, due to my eschatology. About seven years later I was setting in my church office studying Jonah, when the question of the King of Nineveh, “Who can tell?” along with he unconditional prophecy of Jonah, “Forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” And it did not happen which left Jonah open for stoning, a requirement for anyone making a prophecy which was not fulfilled as the law requires. And Jonah did not ass, “If you repent, God will spare the city!” But he did expect God to use the message to spare the city by bringing them to repentance…even though he wanted and looked for them to be destroyed. The prophecy’s statement is not a prescription for what must happen; it has another purpose than a mere literal fulfillment. Slowly, it dawned upon me that he prophecies of the NT of gloom and doom could serve the intent to bring the people to repentance.

    Then came the study of Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which inspired Andrew Fuller and William Carey and others to begin praying for the spread of the Gospel and, eventually, to launch the Great Century of Missions as historian Kenneth Scott LaTourette termed it. The verses in Edwards’ work, nearly a 100, are prophecies and promises of the success of the Gospel. Just think about the one in Daniel 2, where the stone becomes a great mountain and fills the whole earth. Likewise in Isa.11:9 and Hab.2:14 the earth is said to be full of the knowledge and the glory of the Lord which the New Testament identifies as being the knowledge of God in Christ and of His great work on calvary (Jn.17:3; Gals.6:14).

    Spurgeon in his Evening Devotion for August 6th (I think it is, but my vol. is stored somewhere in 200-300 boxes after a move) prayed for the conversion of the whole earth, pleading Ps.72:19. I have also considered I Chrons.16:15 which speaks concerning our “being mindful of his covenant; the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.” If one allows only 20 years per generation then we have 20,000 years for the fulfillment. And if man lives longer (remember the Bible speaks of a time when, if a man dies at a 100, he will be considered a youth), then we could have anywhere from 100,000-900,000 years for the Gospel success. I also call attention to a verse which I consider to be a remarkable bit of humor on God’s part to cheer His followers who might feel disheartened by the grim struggles they endure. In Rev.7:9 the text speaks of a number of redeemed that no one can number!!!!! Innumerable saved people in Heaven. Think of the whole earth being converted, every soul upon the earth being saved in one generation and then for a thousand generations and including the inhabitants (mankind having spread to stars, if God is willing) of a million billion planets. I drew the idea of other planets from the man that some have blamed for limited atonement, Dr. John Owen in his work, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, who makes mention of the sufficiency of value in Christ’s blood to redeem the multitudes of many worlds, which references Andrew Fuller cited in his Gospel Worthy of All Acceptation. Anyway, I thought you folks might like some biblical justification for post-millennialism, though I think it might better be termed crisis millennial generationism.

  6. I must admit that many premillennialists tend to predict too much, e.g., Hal Lindsey. As Jesus has said in the Gospel of Mark that no on earth nor the angels in heaven nor even the Son of God knows when His return will take place; on the contrary, only God the Father knows. As a Southern Baptist, I still believe that Billy Graham has served the Lord well. Therefore, many people will be in God’s ultimate Kingdom due to him. Some people in our republic condemn him because he calls sin what it is. At the same time however, as a good Arminian he states that Jesus came to earth to die and rise from the dead for everyone who will accept Him. That even means the worst of sinners has a chance to accept salvation through Jesus. God does not elect people to salvation or damnation; we make that choice ourselves. God only carries out the sentence we put upon ourselves! It is your choice; therefore, accept the right one. Remember that it is your choice. Postmillennialism is not realistic. As William Hendriksen has admitted: “The world has improved economically, religiously and in many other ways; however, there will be no paradise on earth this side of the Second Coming.” Look at the sin that is now in our world. What is good is now called evil and what is evil is now called good. Remember what our Supreme Court has recently done. George Eldon Ladd was right. Postribulational Premillennialism is not Dispensationalism. Loraine Boettner was wrong about his own view as well as George Ladd’s.

    1. As to my views on Sovereign Grace, I was once asked by a professor at SEBTS back in the Summer of ’73 (a moderate D. Phil. from Oxford, no less), why I believed grace was irresistible. This was at the beginning of a Hebrew class. I answered, Ps.65:4 says, “Blessed is the man whom you choose and cause to approach unto you.” The verb, so I understand is in the causative (piel form). The professor who had signed the Abstract of Principles which call for two of the five points looked at his Hebrew Bible and the text. He said, “You are right.” Then he proceeded with the lesson, and he never again said anything to me about the matter. I might add a note from an old Puritan, Thomas Manton, concerning Eph.5:14. He said, “one might suppose that man is not so bad. Therefore one must note the fact that the text implies that he is dead (arise from the dead). One could conclude from that that man is treated like sticks and stones. One must also take into account that man is said to be asleep (awake you who are sleeping) and the might conclude that he is not too bad, not disabled (my memory of the quote is not too good at this late date)” The point is that God deals with man as dead and disabled and yet as responsible, like our government and courts deal with the alcoholic who kills some one while driving and intoxicated. Obviously, God does not deal with men as sticks and stones, since he addresses them as responsible. On the other hand, He addresses them as they are,too, dead and disabled.

      1. Dear Dr. Willingham,

        Am I correct that you are a two point Calvinist or do you believe in more of the TULIP? May God bless you.

        Henry Wynns, MAR

        PS: If I were younger, I would like to complete a full MDiv and a D.Min.; however, I am sixty and time is flying. In other words, tempus flugit.

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