In 1986 I borrowed a strange book from a friend who assured me that my life was about to be radically changed. I’d heard that before. Every book promised such glorious transformation, but usually left little to no major revisions in my faith. However, this book was different, and my friend was correct: I was about to be floored.
The book was the late David Chilton’s Paradise Restored: A Biblical Theology of Dominion. It had an odd cover depicting one of those masterful illustrations so often used by the Dominion Press books—an image of a golden mountain, waterfalls, and colorful water-sprinkled foliage. Just the cover itself was revolutionary. Most books on the “end-times” featured mushroom clouds or a fiery globe. This one displayed a vision of paradise that, along with the title, confronted me immediately with its obvious thesis: that God was not going to end the world tomorrow, but rather restore it to Edenic glory.
Since I was raised in a non-Christian home, I did not have much to unlearn. I admit that I did accept the third-grade eschatology of the imminent last days, but I was inherently an optimist. I was also a Charismatic. Therefore, anything that hinted at Christian advancement appealed to me.
By the time I reached the tenth chapter, I was converted. And, yes, everything changed; and things would continue to change as my theology developed. Beyond eschatology it would be the Reformed faith and theonomy that would reengineer my entire thinking. I had become a Christian Reconstructionist, and none of my constituency had the slightest idea what I was talking about.
Eschatology and Obedience
As my theology, like leaven, worked its way through the lump, I soon found no peaceful coexistence within my circle of influence. The fulcrum had shifted. I discarded the soiled garments of arminianism and no longer saw value in the “deeper life” teaching of mainstream Charismaticism. It became difficult to find common ground with most Christians because our philosophies concerning history were literally “worlds” apart.
The primary difference was that I now had a philosophy of history. Time and history suddenly mattered. Where history was headed held severe implications for how I functioned in the present, and I was ready to embrace my responsibility.
Postmillennialism was an inescapable concept for me. How could the world ever belong to the wicked one? However, I was using the term to convey a progressive transformation of society more so than simply defining the time of Christ’s return. I think most people do. My concern remains the development of the Kingdom of God in history, i.e., the reign of Christ in every sphere.
But even this phrase is becoming trite. I say it almost habitually. The idea of the manifested reign of Christ in every sphere of life is now defined as “Christian domination” without any reference to the paradise motif. Yet, the issue in eschatology is restoration, not domination. It’s the bringing back of Eden—the fullness of blessing for God’s creation.
This is also the power of law-keeping: it is obedience for the purpose of blessing. Though we are in danger of losing sight of this meaning, the Pauline doctrine of theonomy provokes our remembrance with simplicity and clarity:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Eph. 6:1–3
Long life for the righteous is a clear allusion to the days of Eden; and the restoration comes via the fulfillment of commandments in history. The apostle is here demonstrating the proper use of the “two-edged” sword of God’s law-word: commandment and promise—a usage much needed today to help avoid the pitfalls of hyper-Charismaticism and its emphasis upon promise, or the legalism of certain conservative churches and their man-centered doctrines of holiness. Our doctrine should encourage a joyful obedience to God’s law with a certain expectation that He will reward the diligent seeker (Heb. 11:6).
Sinful Man Desires Paradise on His Own Terms
Collectively, modern man is also involved in a millennial pursuit of paradise. He longs for the day when conflict will give way to peace and lack will make room for abundance. But let us not be fooled by this superficial utopia. His desire is a paradise free from labor, since the idea of work is no Eden for him. Rather, his idea of paradise is the stuff of legend and lore wherein a male-dominated bliss is gorged with gluttony and immoral fantasy.
For the Muslim, the martyr’s reward is a palace full of virgins—certainly no paradise for the seventy-two young women marked for sexual slavery. For the dispensationalist Christian, paradise is a new millennium with Christ seated upon a throne in Palestine in daily communion with the restored Jewish people. For the social Darwinist, paradise is the one-world order of steel and stone hewn from the transformed tools of war. This is best represented in the original idyllic vision of the United Nations.1
Whether in heaven or earth the drive to paradise pushes man to remake the world in his own terms. He is redeeming the time to make the days evil. There is no desire in him to fashion the world in terms of God’s will, for a God-ordained paradise requires responsibility to God and His Word. But without Christian dominion, humanistic paradise is free to pursue its dark future by default. Therefore, the Christian must awaken to the call to world transformation. The Christian must “get back to his post!”
When Adam Left His Post
And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? Gen. 3:9
Little mention is made of this text by commentators. I find this surprising. Most of the textual examination centers on the Hebrew definition of called as the “crackling sound.” But I find it interesting that God asks the question, “Where art thou?”
God knew the whereabouts of Adam. Of this we can be quite certain. It is my contention that God is asking for a larger reason than geography. It appears that when the Lord lighted upon man’s appointed place, Adam was “absent without leave.” He abandoned his post, his place of assignment. Despite God’s charge to “dress and keep” the garden (Gen. 2:15), Adam left his responsibility after violating God’s direct command to avoid the prohibited tree (v. 17). In other words, “Where are you, Adam? Why are you not where I placed you?”
Adam knew he was naked and hid from the intimidating voice of God moving through the trees. Man became conscious of sin, and life decisions were now governed by guilt and fear. And these guilt-ridden decisions would not be made in favor of responsibility and dominion—Adam was now evading the call of God.
The Latent Power of Guilt
Guilt, like depression, is a paralyzing emotion. It neutralizes talented people who would otherwise strive to great ends in pursuit of their callings. They dismiss themselves as unqualified, undeserving, or condemned, like a condemned building that is declared “unfit for use.”
In the case of Adam, guilt removed him from his garden stewardship. This was the immediate objective of the serpent. The Kingdom of God was undermined, and dominion man was now hiding among the trees—neutralized.
The guilt was overwhelming, and near impossible to escape. Once awakened, Adam could not suppress the guilt by hiding among the trees, so he added a layer of “fig leaves” as aprons (Gen. 3:7). But that too was insufficient. Even his shifting of the blame to God and Eve (v. 12) was a vain attempt at adding more layers to cover his shame.
This is what we now refer to as the “Fall of Man.” A simple transition of Adam from the center of the garden just a few yards over to the trees can have apocalyptic and eternal implications! This event redirected the mission of history to the restoration of paradise rather than the expansion of paradise. And even though Christ has redeemed us from the Fall, we also remain hidden among the trees due to guilt and bad theology. What are the implications for history if each one of us moves just a few yards away from our respective responsibilities?
Get Back to Your Post
I must admit that I am still somewhat Charismatic in my approach to faith. I imagine you are as well. I still believe that God is desirous to answer prayer. Don’t you? I believe James when he says that God responds to faith and spurns doubt (James 1:6–7). I am also convinced that “the prayer of faith shall save the sick” when the sinner repents (James 5:15).
However, I have cast off the selfish reasons for answered prayer. If God heals or restores an individual, it is for His own purpose, not ours. If He heals you, His intent is for a restoration to your calling. The objective of salvation, or restoration, is for godly rule, not merely the avoidance of eternal punishment.2
What is the conclusion, then? Get back to your post! Cast off the guilt, sin, confusion, and indecision that keep you cowering among the trees. Your engagement in your calling has eternal implications, and all of heaven is in support of the mission you may be avoiding:
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Heb. 12:1
1. Rushdoony writes, “We will either fail to understand the U.N. or to cope with it unless we recognize that it is religious in inspiration and a religious necessity for humanism, for the religion of humanity.” Politics of Guilt and Pity (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1970), 185–186.
2. R. J. Rushdoony, Salvation and Godly Rule (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1983).