Book Review: Why The End Is Not Near – By Duane Garner

whytheendisnotnearLetter IIn the realm of Christian eschatology there are three primary schools of thought: premillennialism, postmillennialism, and amillennialism (with dispensational premillennialism serving as a sort of fourth). In this short pamphlet (at ~56 pgs I hesitate to call it more than that) author Duane Garner makes his case regarding the issue.

The argument being presented in Why The End Is Not Near is almost a given by the title. It is an argument against premillennialism (specifically dispensationalism) in favor of postmillennialism.

As defined by Garner, the opposing view can be seen as such “…the double nature of the second coming is one of the primary points of departure of dispensational premillennialism from historical premillennialism. In dispensationalism, Christ comes first to rapture his church and then comes again with his church to establish his millennial kingdom.”

Because of the way in which this system interprets Scripture (that is the success of the antichrist, the tribulation and taking an extremely literalistic view of certain prophecy) Garner goes on to state that “… dispensationalism reflects a depressingly pessimistic view of the success of the church and the gospel. It teaches that everything continues to get worse and worse until one day Jesus comes back to rescue his people before they are overcome by the enemy. The church does not get the chance to complete her mission and the gospel falls largely on deaf ears throughout history.”

As can be seen Garner’s chief issue with dispensational premillennialism is both it’s idea of two second comings of Christ and it’s perceived pessimism in regards to the success of the kingdom here on earth. In opposition to this Garner pushes for a much more optimistic form of postmillennialism. Instead of the literalistic interpretation of the dispensationalists Garner argues that we “put all the passages about the end of the world in the context of the destruction of Jerusalem” such that we “will find that there need not be any fanciful speculation about certain events or characters, but that everything therein fits neatly into what has already happened two thousand years ago.”

Garner argues that when Christ came to earth he came to inaugurate his kingdom successfully. He bases this optimism on Christ’s prayer that “His kingdom come” along with an assertion that the Great Commission is meant to be taken to fruition. Since according to Garner the world must first see the completion of the Great Commission and a literal age of true Christendom before the Second Coming, he can state with assurance that the end is not near (given that our current state is nowhere near this golden age which must come first).

All in all this is an informative little book, although due to its watered-down nature one cannot accept everything at face value as being truly representative of either eschatology. It is a helpful read in wetting one’s feet in the debates regarding Christian eschatology, but should be no means be the deciding factor in that debate.

Memorable Quotes:

-“This is the work that Jesus commissioned the church to do when he commanded them to make disciples of all the nations. In promising her that he would be with her throughout all ages, he affirmed that he would not allow his church to fail in the task to which he has assigned her.”

-“The last days of Jerusalem have come and are over. God ended that world, and in Christ he ushered in a new world – our world. He has bound Satan, and we are now reigning with Christ as his brethren and co-heirs, working to bring the nations under his rule.”

-“As [dispensationalists] consistently apply their theology to their missions and lives, they find it foolish to take on any effort that may take several years, even several generations to finish. Thus this past century has not been an age of cathedrals, but of pre-fabricated metal buildings.”

Specific Criticisms

One minor critique of this text is that not every dispensationalist is necessarily as pessimistic and short-sighted as Garner makes them out to be, nor is every postmillennialist as optimistic. Garner makes a strong case for the logical pessimism of dispensationalism (and also does well in demonstrating the misreadings which result in it’s two second comings), but doesn’t necessarily form a strong argument that this pessimism is incorrect.

For instance there is little to suggest to Christ’s prayer about the coming kingdom necessarily denotes a postmillennial kingdom or that the Great Commission would result in a golden age. The strongest argument for his case comes in Christ’s admonition that his kingdom was at hand, that they were living in the last days and that many alive would live to see that kingdom. Yet these same arguments can be used in support of amillennialism as well.

Another pointed criticism one might make is of Garner’s idea that much of what is wrong with the church today is seemingly the result of this end times hysteria. This can be seen when he states that: “Christians accepted the hype [of the hysteria] and retreated into their homes and their splintered churches while the world went to hell… After thirty years of this end-times hysteria, the church has fallen from her influential position in society. Without any plan for the future, and hardly a plan for the present, the church has lost every single significant cultural battle that has faced our generation.” This itself seems almost a relapse into the pessimism that the author rails against.

While the effects of dispensationalism may have been broad, I hardly think they had quite the effect Garner gives them (unless he is speaking of specific churches, or only of battles which the dispensational churches have fought, though his diction doesn’t indicate that this is the case).

Book Review: Deliver Us From Evil – By Don Basham

DeliverUsFromEvilDeliverance is not a topic that I have a lot of – or even any – experience with, so this book is far removed from what I’m used to reading. Deliver Us From Evil follows the author‘s own life narrative as he is exposed to and eventually enters into the ministry of deliverance, eventually providing guidance, structure, and advice on demonic affliction and deliverance from them.

A little over the first half of the book is largely biographical, detailing the author’s transition from being a pastor who worked in a healing ministry but was nonetheless skeptical regarding the existence of demons to a pastor who specialized in deliverance from demons. This section is a narrative to detail the way in which the author was first exposed to demonic activity, was hesitant to believe, but eventually came to accept their reality, and in turn was pushed into the ministry of deliverance, gradually learning and adapting to this new field. With this foundation set, the second half of the book is aimed at passing on the insights which the author has gained over the years.

Once the biographical element has been dealt with, the author gets into what is – at least for me – the meat of the book. Beginning with Chapter 10, Basham begins to detail the ways in which individuals come to be afflicted by demons and some of the attributes of demons and their activity. With this done Basham then begins to address the nuts and bolts of deliverance, such as what conditions must be met in order to achieve deliverance and what must be done in order to keep that deliverance. Following this he details some of the mistakes that he made throughout his ministry for the reader’s benefit, gives some additional advice, and finally deals with one’s ability to perform deliverance on oneself and lays out the steps of how to do this.

The basic layout of these nuts and bolts is:

How they get in:

  • Through “chinks in our natural armor caused by trauma.”(p131); By taking “hold of our natural carnal desires when they are indulged to excess.”(p.131)

How to protect oneself:

  • Avoid carnal practices; Appeal to the work of Christ; Stay away from cultic activity.

“What We’re Up Against”:

  • Demons… act like their master, and therefore will try to steal, kill, and destroy; …are physically strong; …have pride-filled natures; …can come in multiples; …are filthy; …are not to be feared in Christ (although the author does hold that they may afflict Christians).

In order to achieve deliverance:

  • The person must desire deliverance; The person must be willing to admit that he has a demon; Those ministering deliverance must take authority in the name of Jesus; It helps to get the demon to name itself; The afflicted person must renounce the demon; The person must forgive.

In order to keep that deliverance one must:

  • Live by the Scriptures; Learn to praise God continually; Protect and guard your thought life; Cultivate right relationships; Submit to discipline.

Additional tips:

  • Don’t force the subject on people; Deliverance doesn’t produce instant saints; People may not be ready to come to terms with demonic activity; One cannot take too much of the burden of deliverance upon oneself; One shouldn’t over-exhaust themselves with the ministry; Be prepared for Satan to retaliate when one is engaged in deliverance ministry; It will sometimes fail.

In performing deliverance (on other or on oneself), there are some rough steps:

  • Prepare by: Committing to Jesus Christ; Forgiving others; Renunciation of the occult.
  • Perform by: Identifying the specific spirit to be cast out; Renounce the spirit by name; Command the spirit to leave in the name of Jesus; Expel the spirit.

Overall, I have to say that I wish that the book had shortened the biographical portion to perhaps the first 1/4th of the book, and expanded the more practical section into the majority of the text. As it stands, while the actual act of deliverance is covered off and on throughout the text, the more focused treatments of it are confined to perhaps a single chapter once they are distilled. Despite not coming from a charismatic background, I do find the basis set forth by Basham to be intriguing, and for the most part to not require a particular devotion to the charismatic movement. I will say that the book seems slightly over-dramatized at times, though I think that the author deals a fairly even hand to the topic, noting that not every affliction or trouble that faces somebody has its root in demonic activity (rather, there are two roots, with the other being the innate evil within people, ie, the flesh). It seems to be of practical value, and is an interesting read.

Memorable Quotes:

-“Getting rid of the negatives in our life is but half the struggle: Each subtraction must be followed immediately by an addition.”-38

-“Satan’s vaunted power to steal, kill and destroy is based on a lie: the lie that he is still in command… The truth is that Satan is a defeated foe, conquered once and for all on Calvary by the One who loved us before the foundation of the world.”-150

-“… Knowing that Satan and his demons are defeated is one thing; appropriating the benefits of that defeat is quite another.”-p151

-“It is not we who are stronger than Satan, it is Jesus Christ… Jesus Christ has the strength; it is we who must utilize that strength.”-p155

-“The final victory is Christ’s; till then I must expect my share of defeats.”-p182

-“[Many people] wanted to retain their habit patterns, but on a less destructive scale.”-152

Specific Criticisms

I do have a handful of criticisms of this book, none of which are a critique of the basic thesis of the book or the charismatic movement. Perhaps my greatest criticism is a philosophic criticism. In his section on how to perform deliverance Basham notes that it is helpful to get the demon to name itself, and the names given are usually things like ‘lust’, ‘hate’, ‘gluttony’, etc. Basham claims that one of the reasons that this is helpful is because it has been historically held that names refer to some essential part of the thing being named, and thus “to get a demon to name itself is to get it to reveal its essential nature” (p156). Now, while names may bear some significance in Scripture, it is just a little soft-headed to think that these 20th century English terms such as ‘adultery’ or ‘nicotine’ (which is in itself worthy of critique) refer to the essential nature of beings that have been around for thousands of years. What is perhaps more likely is that what is being ‘named’ is what the way in which the demon is afflicting the individual, not some essential part of the being.

Some other criticisms include such lines as the assurance that “God is on your side”(p180) or again that “He was on my side, neither condemning nor criticizing me – only yearning for me to come to him” (p30). There are certain ways in which it might be said that God is working things in your life for good and that He is drawing your to him, one of the chief ways that He does so is through the Law, which denotes you as worthy of condemnation. In the strict sense, God is his own side, he does not join ours; it is us who are either on his side or on the enemy’s.

Another such criticism is the statement that “He will never impose His will on our wills” (158) which, while perhaps strictly true, does not convey the proper notion. God will not impose His will upon our wills, rather, he will change our wills to match his.

The final criticism I have of this book deals with the way the author presents his own story. For instance, he presents himself as somebody who was involved in the healing ministry, but initially thought of demons as nonsense (even though he and his wife had previously been involved in seances and the occult for a short period). This just seems odd. In another place the author notes that an acquaintance of his “had taken the step I was now taking, having to quit an excellent job…”; yet the author was not quitting an excellent job. As Basham laid it out, he was facing a large amount of turmoil at his old job and he had left after just barely diverting a crisis which would have split the church. He then claims that he had been clinging to that job out of fear regarding the uncertainty of life in his new ministry; yet really, as Basham sets it up, it seems equally likely that he left his old job out of fear or dislike of said job. Quite simply, there seem to be many influences which Basham sweeps under the rug in his narrative which make me doubt his sincerity at some points (as does the way in which many of his stories seem to be sensationalized).