My reading lately has had an unusual interest in amillennialism. No doubt because of Sam Storms new book Kingdom Come but also due to the recently released updated edition of Kim Riddlebarger’s book The Case for Amillennialism.
In the preface to the expanded edition Riddlebarger notes two controversies that arose since the publication of the first edition (2003). The first is Harold Camping and his insistence on setting a date for the rapture of the church. Because of this Riddlebarger added a new chapter to this edition on “Signs of the End.” The second issue was of more interest to me. Apparently I was asleep under a rock somewhere in 2007 when this controversy broke out because I don’t recall hearing anything about it. At a conference John MacArthur gave a lecture entitled “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Premillennialist.” Riddlebarger notes with interest that this was quite a surprise “since the framers and the current signatories of the Canons of the Synod of Dort (from which the five points come) are overwhelmingly amillennial.” (16) Riddlebarger made a thorough response to MacArthur which you can find here. I note here just a couple of paragraphs from his response.
More to the point, “Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist Is a Premillennialist” was a rather strident attack upon something that I as a Reformed amillennarian don’t believe. In fact, it was hard to recognize my own position as Dr. MacArthur made his case. Sadly, this was clearly an attack upon something that Dr. MacArthur truly believes that Reformed amillennarians believe. The same circumstance was true, no doubt, for those historic premillennarians, who likewise embrace Calvinism and arrived at the “Shepherd’s Conference” only to be told that in order to be consistent to Scripture and God’s sovereignty, they too must embrace MacArthur’s dispensationalism in addition to being premillennial.
As I see it, here’s the issue. Dr. MacArthur picked this fight. His contention that unless you see Scripture through dispensational eyes, you cannot be a “self-respecting Calvinist” surprised many–Reformed amillennarians and historic premillennarians alike. Without the dispensational lens–says MacArthur–you will misunderstand much of the Bible. The latter point is part of the long-standing debate between amillennarians and dispensationalists (and no surprise), but the former comes as big news to those of us who are confessional Calvinists who think MacArthur’s brand of dispensational premillennialism is antithetical to any historic or confessional form of Reformed or Calvinistic theology.
Yet, here is John MacArthur telling confessional Calvinists that unless they give up their amillennialism, they cannot be consistently “Calvinists.” The sheer audacity of that charge is striking.
The entire response is well worth reading.