Addressing The Amillennial Alternative: Chapters 1-2
Thanks to the wonderful people at Christian Focus Publications, I have a beautiful review copy of Sam Storms' Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative. In due time a proper review will be out but in the meantime I've decided to blog through important portions of this fine book to get a little more interaction with Storms' theology. I am currently postmillennial with a heavy handed preterism so I'll be addressing Storm from an opposing perspective. I certainly don't want to poke at everything Storms' says but I do want to flesh out some of my thoughts. At the same time, I can already tell this book will get a positive endorsement from me so pointing out some of my personal doctrinal disagreements here seems like a good idea.
Far from being a strict book on passages concerned with eschatology, Kingdom Come addresses different topics and issues (some of these being specific passages) associated with millennial thought and theology. So unlike say Riddelbarger or Mathison, this is not just a "start in Genesis end in Revelation" type volume. I think in many ways this will be helpful to readers who seek to address "The Amillennial Alternative" on a specific subject or passage. The first two topics addressed are "The Hermeneutics of Eschatology" and "Defining Dispensationalism."
Hermeneutics of Eschatology
I have a sneaky suspicion that this is the chapter Storms' and I will agree the most (although he hints at some compelling stuff in the Olivet Discourse). With an A-mil background, I enjoy their terminology and occasionally their straightforwardness of interpretation with emphasis on Christ. One of the five hermeneutics points that Storms' brings up is Christ's role in fulfilling prophecy with an important statement that "Jesus is the Temple,"
It's entirely possible, of course, that people in Israel may one day build a temple structure...it will have no eschatological or theological significance whatsoever, other than to rise up as a stench in the nostrils of God. The only temple in which God is now and forever will be pleased to dwell is Jesus Christ and the church, his spiritual body. (20)
This quote had me all kinds of excited. Storms' and I disagree on the fulfillment of "the temple" in Revelation 21-22 at a practical level. I see Christ as having already completed this entirely while Storms' focuses on the progressive temple building of the church (19). Since the Christian faith is built on these "Already/Not Yet" distinctions (Storms gives a great list on page 29), I don't see much of a theological issue with saying Christ already is the perfect temple in Revelation 21 while we are being built up.
In the fourth point Storms takes up the ideas of metaphor and literalism in the prophets. He especially leans heavily on Brent Sandy's quote, "things we have never experienced are largely controlled by things we have experienced" (31). There is a lot about this section and this concept that I like (especially his example with Isaiah 2 and Micah 4). Unfortunately it gets applied to concepts such as death and the land of promise. Using this principal Storms tries to argue that Isaiah 65-66 are speaking of the eternal state in ways they would understand (e.g. not dying till age 100, etc.). On the surface this is a plausible explanation, but why wouldn't Isaiah have known about deathless-ness or the resurrection? Ezekiel (Eze 37-38) and Daniel (Dan 12) might have had a concept. Pre-death existence is demonstrated in Genesis 1-2. Even Enoch and Elijah give examples of a "no-death" experience and existence.
As I said, the point is good but the postmillennial/preterist in me has some trouble with where he applies it. All in all, this chapter is pretty stinking good and drops the hammer on the fact that "Jesus is Israel...Both Jesus and his body, the Church, constitute the true Israel" (42).
This chapter is a little less exciting. Individuals familiar with Dispensationalism can likely skip it. As an owner and reader of Ryrie's Dispensationalism Today and Lewis Sperry Chafer's Systematic Theology (I have not read all of this), I wanted to take a peek and see how fair Storms would be. In my opinion he is on point in allowing the Dispensationalist to speak for themselves. Quotes of many shapes and sizes litter the pages and permit Storms to simply give a lay of the land. This chapter is not spent refuting Dispensationalism but simply giving an accurate description.
One of the values I could certainly see in this chapter is some readers may not identify as "dispensational" despite holding to all of the peculiarities and distinctions. Storms politely why Dispensationalism is so popular and does provide a brief look (one could call it a "refutation") of a pre-tribulation rapture. Another value of the chapter would be the closing section on "Progressive Dispensationalism" (67-69). Though more complicated and seemingly more "progressive" in their thinking about the church and Israel, Storms shows this isn't the case.
In conjunction with the first chapter, these two chapters may be a little off putting to individuals to who stringently to a distinction between Israel and the Church as two different people of God. Without even addressing specific passages Storms has shown that concept is un-Biblical and will hurt one's interpretation of eschatology. It does come of to me like Kingdom Come has an agenda against the popular theology of evangelical America. I am confident the future chapters will level that out.