Is there a direct relationship between peace and understanding? I am referring of course to the sort of peace and understanding mentioned in the Bible in places like Philippians 4:7 where we are told the peace of God exceeds all understanding. How much understanding does a person require to acquire peace?
I am reminded of my father’s mother. She seemed ancient to me from my first memories. She was old beyond her age compared to people now with deep and pronounced wrinkles penetrating weather-beaten leathery skin. She was a short stout woman of one facial expression and few words. She was born at the turn of the twentieth century as a hillbilly in the mountains of North Carolina. As a young bride, she accompanied her husband down from the mountain in a wagon to seek work in the city. They bought forty acres; her husband went to work in a textile mill and she bore seven children to work the land. She lived to see children die, some in childbirth and others later. She sent sons to war and endured the Great Depression. Her husband, a stout wrinkled man from my memory died early. She spent the remaining thirty years of her life until she became ill on the land they bought and worked.
Here is the thing, I do not believe I ever recall anyone accusing her of being “joyful”. She was more stoic than Marcus Aurelius. Also, nobody ever accused her of worrying about anything. She sat in a small home on those forty acres now surrounded by a growing city. Real estate developers often stopped by trying to talk her out of her piece of dirt. She spent the winters in the small central room next to her oil heater. Her Bible was always next to her chair or beside her bed. The lady could do a lot of things, sew, grow food, can food and probably more than I can imagine. I also think her understanding was complete if simple. She understood enough to arrive at a place of peace, stoic peace, but peace nonetheless.
Her way may indeed still work today, it may work for many. I suspect, however, that in our age of information that is seemingly ubiquitous and apparently easy to come by most of us are not like my grandmother. I am not, I think I have never been. In the calculus related to how I arrived at peace there was something like progressive peace as I was able to understand more until I was able to get to the point where I identified the limits of understanding.
I ought to be clear, I am not suggesting heresy. I am not channeling Clive Lewis and intimating that one can reason their way to peace. True peace can only come from faith following an effectual calling. There is something metaphysical and theological to that, something beyond full understanding – and that is fine. As a created creature it is impossible to find true peace without a relationship with the Creator and that requires an understanding of His rules about that relationship, but not a full engineering diagram to explain the technical details. In the most foundational way this truth, have faith and believe, is the key to understanding but it requires some degree of understanding to get there. How much, I do not know. I still ponder the thief on the cross compared to my ingrained aversion to Billy Graham-style ‘believism’ – it is complex, we cannot know entirely, but we can know that you have to have faith to start the journey toward understanding.
But I, like many that profess that they have believed through faith, required more understanding. I have related the story here of a friend from growing up that went on to become a Methodist minister. In 2020 we dialogued and I was struck by how far apart we had grown. We had once shared so many interests. My former friend had become an existentialist. He wondered why is the world as it is and how could he make it better. Of course, he cannot, he does not know it but he cannot. If it were left to him or someone like him he could only succeed in making it worse. But I too want to know why the world is the way it is.
I grew up in an Arminian dispensationalist Church (I would say that is a redundant phrase but I cannot figure out what John Macarthur is). None of that helped in understanding the world. I was a sinner, that much was clear, I could never be assured of anything (according to them) – that too was clear from all the Sunday night alter calls and all those people weeping. From about third grade on in Sunday school they would sometimes have to bring the preacher in to try and answer my questions. “Where did Cain get his wife” was the most innocent of those. I dare not repeat the others because they might paint me as an esoteric wingnut. I never received satisfactory answers.
I moved toward reformed theology beginning about 2010. The answers therein are true enough, “God is Sovereign”, “God created all good things”, “Evil is not a thing it is the absence of a thing”. Those and similar answers cover about 90% of everything I have ever wondered and 99% of the things that really matter. That is sufficient to frame me in the universe in a way that I can understand there are things I do not even know I do not understand. There is a lot of peace in that.
What is the 1% that cannot be answered by those tenets of reformed doctrine? Primarily, in my mind this relates to the nature of history, the future and last things. I mention often that I find Oswald Spengler’s theories in The Decline of The West profitable. I do challenge his axioms related to true truth. For myself, I can template his theory on a history timeline beside redemptive history and I find understanding, almost. One thing is missing and amillennial eschatology plugs that hole. In early 2020 when all of social media was abuzz with Hal Lindsey-type rants I learned amillennial eschatology and it has made all the difference.
Strange how amillennialism has gone out of favor in most reformed circles. Most of the Church before the Reformation was amil. Calvin and Luther were amil. Calvin essentially said the other views of eschatology were silly and not worth his time to refute. Charles Spurgeon called premillennial dispensationalism heresy and in 1995 David Engelsma bemoaned how postmillennialism had made such inroads into reformed theology in the previous decades. I theorize this was a result of WWII. Amillennialism sees the Harlot of Revelation popping up across history as well as small “a” antichrists. The chapters of Revelation between one and twenty are recapitulations. They could describe the same event over again, or many events across history. The amillennial view is Spengler’s view of history and seasons. Things repeat, nothing is new (Ecc. 1:9) Coming out of WWII, realizing the Hitler was a type of an antichrist and that apparently God’s wrath on Jews was not complete was more than most people could stomach I believe. They wanted a different God and a different end to things, not a God that would drive history in such cycles. Thus, postmillennialism gained favor.
The above sounded harsh, I meant it as I said it. However, I also hold that all Christians ought to live every day with all of Christ for all of life and try to build the kingdom in our time. If a person holds to postmillennial eschatology and does not put in work like Doug Wilson but rather just rearranges the hymnals, I say they are hypocrites and do not believe what they claim. Again, those are hard words and they come from a real place. My patience with pious postmillennials expired at some point in 2021. We all live here, we all have duties, and we all ought to work every day to make the world as righteous as possible. As a person that holds to the amil view I know any such victories are temporary but I refer you back to “God is sovereign”, he put us here in this place at this time – do work.
That covers everything one needs to have sufficient understanding to know the nature of history, God, and man to be a “Son of Issachar” – to know what to do most of the time with paradigm shifts. Understanding those things covers why things happen the way they do, what the future holds and how it ends, and what we are supposed to do, beginning with believing through faith right through putting in work, doing our duty, and bearing a standard.
The last bit, the questions the understanding above does not answer is “how did it begin”. Again, “God is sovereign”, he did it as he said in a way that made sense to him and related it to us for sufficient understanding. He gave us a book. All of that is sufficient. But I still wonder. I also wonder if our lack of wondering does not hamper our testimony to unbelievers. Now a caveat, I am not saying any of the following is how it began, but it is sufficiently interesting to me that I can stop wondering and wait until after this life to learn the full story.
Important note for clarity: I think there are three things that we have to consider, first, present, and last things. First things are interesting, and important as they show the nature of our universe and God but a person can interpret things with some liberty so long as they do so literally and in truth. Present things, as in the core theological principles are very important. Last things many reformed think are less important but they actually rank just behind present things. The way a person sees it all ending has an influence on the present. As to present things there can be no room for over-spiritualizing, allegorizing, equivocating, deconstructing, ignoring, or explaining away hard words and concepts. There is now and has always been a degree of "Paul-hatred" on the edge of real Christianity. He wrote what he wrote and it has a meaning that Scripture itself defines. The Essenes are still among us and are growing. All manner of heretics are among us. I have no tolerance of weakness on the Word as applied to present things, I have no love of heresy.
Where did Cain get his wife? Why did God place a mark on his head so he would not be killed? Who would have killed him since he just left his family? Why does the Greek Septuagint translated in 300 BC (the text the apostles read) have a genealogical timeline of 5500 years from Adam to Christ versus the 4400 years in the Hebrew translation from about 400 AD? Why when you read Genesis chapter one and then go into chapter two you realize this does not seem like a restatement but rather like two events?
Yes, I am fairly settled on the “Gap-theory”, I think God created the universe in Genesis 1, in six days I will not argue if these are 24-hour earth days or a cosmic equivalent but I lean toward the latter. I think in these six cosmic days you can cram as much or as little time as science ever thinks it needs, it does not matter, God created the universe and everything in it (minus three things) in Genesis 1. And then, after that, he created the Garden and formed Adam specially, for a special purpose, and then Eve.
All of that sounds esoteric and crazy but there is something to it, even if I have parts of it wrong. My nephew just returned from Antarctica doing land survey and I jokingly asked him if he found anything interesting. He described a building project there on a military operation scale. Nations are not simply posturing in preparation for the expiration of the Antarctica Treaty in 2048. There are ‘esoteric’ elements in the mainstream that believe they know what they are going to find. When they find it, if Christianity does not have an answer, many will be deceived. Our Bible gives us an explanation as to why Plato was not writing complete fiction when he spoke of Atlantis. When we discover ancient ruins buried under the ice that predate all known history we as Christians need to have an answer.
The problem is the entire topic is occupied by wingnuts. No reputable reformed pastor could even ask the questions I just posited out loud and certainly could not preach anything on it. Most will not even touch Revelation. They should as the first chapter contains some of the most awe-inspiring words of encouragement in the whole Bible and as the last book it quotes liberally from the rest, reiterating deep theological concepts.
That is it. I think I understand everything as well as I can in this life, I understand enough to have great peace. I once worried about my children and their children in this world but that is silly. God puts us here in the time we are meant to be here. If they follow him then they will do what they should do, bear any burdens or conversely enjoy blessings just as are appointed to them. I have a duty, just as you and so will they. It is their fight, their life and their time – just as God ordains. There is nothing to worry about.
Because I came to understand the Spengler/Amil view of history and because I was blessed to be shaped by great thinkers like Clyde Wilson, I had a leg up so to speak on 2020 by a year or two. I wrote stuff, dark and foreboding warning stuff. Not because I am a catastrophist but rather a realist. The irony of that is others could not tell the difference. Doomers were attracted to my writing. I can name four individuals that are not dead or in prison right now because they found me, thinking I was a doomer, and then became my friends as to allow me to talk them out of doing stupid during 2020. The ironic thing about us doing our duty is that sometimes it just happens when we think we are trying to do something else.
Last week a friend that I routinely rant to said they were not going to mention something in the world to me because I “would get mad”. I said “I do not get mad, I am the most joyful person I know, I just have strong opinions about absurdity”. I mentioned that people often do not know when a person is joyful because they are not themselves and cannot believe it if they see it in another. My pastor preached this Sunday on that subject saying that “anxiety is an airborne infection but joy has a low transmission rate.”  I am GEN X, I cannot say too often “Isn’t it ironic”.
A couple of hours after penning the above a friend shared some articles that spoke in more detail about the rise, fall and rise of postmillennialism. I think that deserves its own set of articles here but I am trying to get out of the habit of writing. I have essentially found the purpose I was seeking when I began this effort so long ago. I am including this update here because while it may be cumbersome to tell it absolutely does relate to the question of understanding posited above.
If we really peel back the onion, we find that postmillennialism grew in popularity beginning about the 17th century. Coinciding no less with the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. It was first posited by a Unitarian heretic named Daniel Whitby and adopted whole-hog by the Puritans. Of the Puritans, we can say they often preached fabulous sermons on hell but there is a less wholesome legacy there too. They gave us a military dictatorship in England, burned women in New England, and were ultimately in the water that gave birth to manifest destiny. We might even trace Mormonism to the Puritans in a real way. All that craziness that went on in Onida New York had an effect. We know Cotton Mather read the Kabbalah and thought Jewish mysticism had something to tell us. We can observe that when Puritan-influenced Congregationalist churches in the Northeast merged with Presbyterians the fate of Presbyterianism in the US was sealed. Many problems can be traced to bringing in bad ideas in that merger. We see it now in a dialectic of overly pious do-nothing ‘orthodox” presbys juxtaposed against post-Christian presbys and many in the middle gravitating toward one of those polls (most toward a Paul-hating post-Christian version). Ideas have consequences! 
But beyond all of that, we can say that the postmillennialism brought to these shores by the Puritans and then evangelized through congregationalist revivals and in Yale and Harvard was conservative progressivism. The first part of that descriptor does not matter, in the end, all progressivism ends in authoritarianism and then in failure.  It is fundamentally no different in nature than the radical progressivism I wrote about in that link in 2019. It also explains US history and the tension between centralization and decentralization evident in the first half of the 19th century. The move toward empire in 1867 is no surprise considering the postmillennial ideology in the water.  It is all very Spengler-like. Western progressivism (the Enlightenment and all that flowed from it) was at the core neo-Platonic. In the Spengler summer season of such a civilization, it is predictable that the civilization would move toward “perfection” of the system. In the Platonic ideal that is centralized progressivism. It fits well with the amillennial view that people would merely repeat the same hubris and mistakes of the past and rebuild beasts, be seduced by the harlot and eventually fall.
I still hold to my contention that it was WWII that gave rise to postmillennialism in its various forms today. Renald Showers points out that in the 1950s hardly anyone espoused a postmillennial view.  The same can be said of communism after the truth about the purges and starvation came to light. World War Two burst the enthusiastic bubble of many. Postmodernism was born of that frustration, birthed by Marxists that simply could not understand why communism had failed to create utopia. Postmodern theologians were just a step or two behind Foucault and Derrida. The old ideas had failed, for both the Marxists and the Postmils but instead of accepting better ideas, they deconstructed the old to try and find something that they liked.
I stand by my assertion that what Englelsma was fighting against in 1995, this sudden reemergence of postmillennialism  was merely a deconstructed idea of who God is and a view of history that aligned with what people wanted to believe. It is postmodernism in a theological coat, some of it is liberal some is conservative but it is all a deconstructed and rewritten God.
Understanding of this matters. It prevents a person from becoming an existentialist Methodist preacher like my former friend mentioned above who would say if everyone would just do the current thing we could remake the world (and if you cannot you are a sinner and should die). It would prevent people from being seduced by political charlatans that promise dominion by uttering a few good words. All the unbiblical social justice liberation theology would be dismissed out of hand if a person understood this.  “Christian nationalism” would not be a thing. The US might have never bombed or invaded 25% of the world and the entire War in Ukraine may have never happened and certainly would not have drug on and been as costly as it has been. Understanding the evil that this sort of progressivism gives birth to changes everything. There is peace in that understanding even if most around us do not.
The following are some videos might help explain some of what I have said above. The first is by me, made in December of 2020 but timeless in its application. I think a lot of us in the West are pretty spoiled in our expectations of comfort in this world. Most of us read the Bible in places like Hebrews 10 and 12 and do not see the real application that most Christians in most places have to face.