James White, Postmillennialist

Dr. James White is a Reformed Baptist theologian and apologist and founder and director of Alpha Omega Ministries who, formerly premillennial and amillennial, recently shifted his eschatology to postmillennialism. I decided to explore that shift a little more deeply with him.

PAS: James, what leading factors contributed to your move from amillennialism to postmillennialism?

JW: I should first make it clear that I have truly sought to avoid the eschatological debate realm for many years. I was raised dispensational pre-millennial, and I still have the books and charts to prove it. I remember so well when Thief in the Night came out, and we watched it at our church on New Year’s Eve before midnight. I am still freaked out by the sight of an unattended, running lawn mower.

Likewise, I remember clearly, sometime in my junior year in high school, around 1978 or so, using the glow from my cool Tritium digital watch to read the text from Matthew 24 to my friends in the dark at a lock-in at the mega Southern Baptist Church I was a member of, explaining the budding of the fig tree, how long a generation was, and how Israel had become a nation in 1948.  A few years later, as a dual Bible/Biology major in college (minor in Greek), I and some fellow Bible students plotted to buy Dr. Martin, our amillennial professor, a bunch of helium filled balloons and have them delivered to class with the note, “In case of rapture, hold on tight!”  We didn’t do it only because we were Bible college students and could not afford it.

But shortly thereafter I became convinced that the hermeneutical method I was using for my premillennial views was inconsistent, and hence I had to abandon that view.  However, not knowing about any other views to any depth, I became agnostic about the topic, calling myself a “panmillennialist,” as in, “it will all pan out in the end.”  I knew one had to have an eschatology proper, relating to judgment, the coming of Christ, resurrection, the final state, etc., but I had come to the conclusion that these debates produced far more heat than they did light, and I lost all interest.

Years after graduating from seminary I listened to a series of lectures from an amillennial lecturer on “this age and the age to come,” thought, “Hey, that makes sense, and is nice and simple,” and adopted the view.  I read a few more works on the topic, and adopted it mainly because I knew I could not speak and write on systematic theology while maintaining eschatological agnosticism.  But I still did not find the field compelling or interesting.  I had not yet seen how it is necessarily related to how one decides key issues about the church’s purpose and future.

When I moved to Apologia Church a few years ago I found myself more directly and openly surrounded by postmillennialists.  My fellow Pastor Jeff Durbin was preaching through Matthew, and hit Matthew 24 right as I became a member.  It was not long until I entered the eldership, and so the issue was more clearly a part of my thinking. I was asked to read Dr. Joseph Boot’s The Mission of God, as Apologia basically refers to it as a manifesto of sorts for the church. This led to further reading in other authors as well.

But the biggest factor was 2020, the year when it became clear that a global, purposeful movement headed straight into secular technocratic totalitarianism was on the fast march. The pandemic panic, combined with a CCP-style totalitarian mindset, was causing a rapid slide directly into a dark abyss, and I began thinking very seriously about what this meant to the faith, and, especially now as I have grandchildren, the oldest of which is heading into her teen years, how we can communicate the faith to the generations yet to come.

PAS: What specific biblical texts or theological constructions most contributed to your change?

JW: In my “coming out” sermon, I focused upon what had truly pressed me to take a stand on the topic.  Postmillennialism is a top-down theology.  It begins with over-arching themes that flow naturally and beautifully from Reformed theology. Instead of starting down at the bottom and trying to build up a system based upon interpreting symbols and apocryphal texts, postmillennialism starts with the over-arching purpose of God in Christ.  As I studied Psalm 110, Psalm 2, Isaiah 42, and saw how these texts are central to the Apostolic understanding of the church, time, and the future, I was forced to deal with the divine promise that Christ will triumph, not just in a spiritual sense, which all positions take as a given. The phrase in Psalm 110:2, “rule in the midst of Your enemies” struck me.  This is a command, an imperative, and it is not about ruling in heaven while Christ’s enemies hold full sway upon earth. Jesus did not say all authority in heaven alone had been given to Him.  And surely the promise of Psalm 2:8 must be fulfilled. Could Jesus fail to ask for the nations, and would the Father fail to sovereignly comply?  These, together with the key text in 1 Corinthians 15:20ff, came together to provide the over-arching intertextual themes and fulfillment that I had not found in any other understanding.

PAS: Has this shift altered your existential outlook on the church and society in any way?

JW: That shift was taking place due to my discussions with my fellow elders at Apologia, but certainly once I saw the incredible consistency of the biblical testimony at the highest level of the fulfillment of the purposes of the Father and the Son, seen prophetically in the Hebrew Scriptures and fulfilled in the New Testament, I could not avoid making my decision.

The postmillennialism I am espousing recognizes God is fulfilling His purposes in time, and that includes judging nations and empires.  There have been very dark times since the resurrection.  As one who has taught church history for decades, I well knew there was no simple, straight line of “improvement” in the world from the first century until now.  And as we face a possible period of deep and prolonged darkness, I now look at the situation not in an escapist mindset, but in an endurantist mindset. What if secularism with all its related falsehoods amounts to the greatest challenge to Christ’s lordship ever seen?  And what if it is His intention to destroy these falsehoods with such power that they will never again afflict the minds of the human family?  And what if that means allowing them to hold sway for decades, even centuries, so that their full depth of emptiness can be known for all time?  Will we give up our hope even in such situations?  We cannot, and I now have a context in which to remain faithfully joyous and hopeful even in the darkest situation, for the same one who promised His holy One would not see decay (and hence brought about the resurrection itself) likewise promised ultimate victory to the One who must reign until every enemy has been put under His feet.

13 Thoughts

  1. Praying for this sad 😞 day …when good men go down after Satan’s efforts …..May our holy God convict your heart , change your life !

    1. Are you talking about the “Satan” that was “crushed shortly” in AD 70 (Rms. 16:20/Gen. 3:15)? I thought Postmillennialist Partial Preterists take the imminent time texts as fulfilled in AD 70? How is this final crushing of Satan any different than the judgment of Satan in Revelation 20 which was said to be fulfilled “shortly” (Rev. 1:1—22:7, 10, 20) and thus also fulfilled in AD 70?

  2. Sandlin, you are a pathetic coward – blocking and censoring my responses to you and the article. Typical. Just like the liberal Socialists – censor and name call because you don’t have arguments and can’t answer the tough questions. I get it. If this isn’t true, then let me post my response.

  3. Lol – Hasn’t James White made a living and career debating “heretics”?!? And now that eschatology is actually important to him and is allegedly clearer, he needs to step up to the plate.

  4. Major Premise James White #1: The coming of Christ throughout the book of Revelation is the Second Coming event which is the event that ends the millennium of Revelation 20 (classic Amillennialism).

    Minor Premise James White #2: But the “soon” coming of Christ throughout the book of Revelation was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 (Partial Preterist Postmillennialism).

    Conclusion: The “soon” Second Coming throughout Revelation was fulfilled spiritually in AD 70 and therefore ended the millennium of Revelation 20 (my view Sovereign Grace Full Preterism. You are getting closer Mr. White).

    Just as you can see 4 point “Calvinism” isn’t biblical let alone Calvinism (just compromise), you will soon see Postmillennial Partial “Preterism” has an agenda and is not biblical or real Preterism (just compromise). It is ONLY “Preterist” enough to get the bad things behind it (ex. the tribulation, apostasy, man of sin, etc.) so it can promote unbiblical Postmillennialism.

  5. Passages White appeals to: 1). Pslam 2: Where exactly in this Pslam is it taught that the vast majority of the globes nations will be Christianized before a third coming of Jesus? The Nations belong to Christ as an inheritance and He is sovereign over them. He was sovereign over Israel as well and they went through cycles of conversion and apostasy (and most of the time God works through the remnant). No golden age of the globe of Postmillennialism climaxed by a third coming of Jesus taught here.

  6. I am glad to see Dr. James White investigating eschatology. While I think he is wrong on postmillennialism, at least, contrary to popular opinion, it is a step closer to prewrath premillennialism. However, Dr. White has always practiced—and something I greatly respect—engaging the _best_ arguments on the other side. But here is where he is inconsistent because he cites the low-hanging fruit of the 1970s and 80s sensational prophecy teachers such as Hal Lindsey and the Left Behind books. He has taken a cue from DeMar and Durbin who are notorious for dismissing premillennialism by citing these pop teachers and other pretrib, dispy writers—as if this is an argument against premillennialism. To be sure, White cites some positive argumentation for his new understanding. Yet, all of this reveals to me that White is not familiar with premillennial scholarly literature, at all. But I don’t blame him because of his apologetic work load. On the other hand, I would encourage him to tentatively hold to postmillennialism while reading up on premillennial monographs before he dogmatically hitches his wagon to over-realized eschatology.

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