Postmillennialism Becomes Progressive Socialism

Everything listed in this graphic is wrong
Progressive Era about increasing Statism

In my recent posts (Why Eschatology Matters; Faith Affects Government, Always; and Nostalgia for Charles Finney’s Godly America) I have tried to inform the reader about America’s true past that centers on the Progressive Era (1890-1920). The Progressive Era grew out of Protestant Postmillennialism and into politics to create a better society to present to Christ so He will return and establish His Kingdom on earth {in essence}. The America you see today is a result of the Progressive Era whose effects never receded.

The foundation for this series of posts comes from The Progressive Era (Rothbard, M. Mises Institute. 2017.). The public governmental educational system has sold Americans on the benefits developed in this period; however, this is mainly propaganda, then and now, to hide the real reason for many of the reforms that developed during this period. Though many of the Protestant groups who piously advocated for a better society may have believed they had different eschatological (end times) doctrines the fact remains that forcing society to behave according to a Christian moral standard is postmillennialism. The advocates quickly learned that society would not become better on its on; thus, the power of the state was co-opted to create this moral society.

Many of the movers and shakers of the Progressive Era had Protestant Pietistic backgrounds before entering the government realm. However, I will speak to the tremendous influence of one man in this post who unintentionally and nearly single-handedly changed the Democratic Party from a small government, laissez faire and non-imperialistic political party to what is has become today. His name, William Jennings Bryant.

In 1896 W.J. Bryant ran a Populist campaign
His theology Made today’s Democratic Party

W.J. Bryant was a Protestant Pietistic Christian who believed that only the American government could make America great and moral. Though he was against the Republican’s use of government force to cartelize all industries using various government commissions such as the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), Pure Food and Drug (known today as the FDA); he was not above using the government to force all people to live according to his understanding of Christian morality.  This extremely charismatic and eloquent speaker could move thousands to thunderous applause but could not win an election because of his pietism.

Before 1896 the Democratic Party was largely comprised of Roman Catholics, high church Lutherans, Anglicans and others who were largely liturgical or creedal in there faiths. These people were largely immigrants and resisted prohibition and woman’s suffrage to name just two issues. However, when Bryant ran for president as a Democrat many of these people left the Democratic Party and either did not vote or joined minor parties of the day. In essence, Bryant changed the character of the Democratic Party nearly single-handedly by infusing it with a religious mission of making a better society than the Republicans.

The Republicans conceived of a better society as the merger of government and business supported by intellectuals to legitimize the process to the public. Though the Republicans were very strong moralists in their heyday, they were backing off the temperance and other moralistic bandwagons because they were losing elections at the local and state levels. Thus, after nearly destroying the Democratic Party during and after the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Democrats were once again becoming the majority party. Then Bryant entered the fray changing everything. The fact that he could never win an election showed that Americans did not want to go dry (alcohol free).

After Bryant the Democratic Party never recovered its previous position. Instead, it kept its religious zeal about creating a perfect society using government power. Thus, its goals were nearly the same as the Republican Party though its vision had altered. The Democratic Party absorbed the philosophy of Positivism, the belief that society runs on fixed knowable laws that can be used to make society better. Since these laws were fixed and knowable the need for God diminished. This form of Scientism became influenced by socialism from Europe. Democrats became convinced that the extremes of laissez faire and Marxist socialism could be avoided by follow a Third Way, the Middle Way. This Middle Way was propagandized as not being as random and chaotic as laissez faire nor as violent as socialism. Government, business and labor working together could make a better society for everyone.

This approach coupled with the influx of psychology soon entered the Protestant churches as the Social Gospel movement. This grass roots support for socialism robbed most mainline Protestant denominations of any truth of the gospel, even today. The emphasis was on good works attending to physical needs without any specific emphasis on the need for a new nature as contained in the biblical gospel. With the growing powerlessness of the gospel and the rejection of the use of government to force everyone to believe in Protestantism the Democratic Party soon fostered a way to a better society without God. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Republican use of God was not according to Scripture either though it maintained its emphasis on both Protestantism and established enclaves of “old American stock” {read northern European}.

America’s non-biblical religious works-based postmillennialism gave rise to a religiopolitical heritage that seeks to use government to force society to live according to the values the party in power believes are correct. At the grassroots level most Americans reject being forced into any morality strait jacket. Since the 1960s the emphasis of public education changed from being Protestant national socialistic based to being anything but Protestantism and globally socialistic based.  The commonality: government force being used to force society to live as deemed correct.

What does the Bible say? God, via Paul, says that God does not force people to live biblically moral lives (Ro 1:24-25). In fact, it is insanity to expect lost people to be able to live pleasing to God in any fashion. Society makes laws to keep from self-destructing which at best only slows the process but all societies do self-destruct because of sinful people. The Christian does not live a biblical moral existence because of self-empowerment but because one has a new nature empowered by the Holy Spirit (2Co 5:17). This is not automatic but is learned over time, growing in spiritual maturity (Ga 2:20-21). In other words, Christians have a hard enough time controlling their own flesh desires even with the indwelling Spirit of God. We ought not to demand of others what God does not demand of them. Forcing the lost to live contrary to their nature only begets violence. Forcing lost people to live contrary to their beliefs, which is what the Republican and Democratic parties attempt, only begets violence. Since both sides are basically religious in belief there can be no compromise with giving up one’s belief system. Thus, both sides are locked into a religiopolitical war over whose version of society will succeed. This keeps everyone angry, rigid and extreme in beliefs preventing them hearing the gospel truth of salvation. This is why God, via Paul, tells us to pray for leaders and to support those laws that do not conflict with the morality and truth of God in all good conscience (Ac 4:18-20; Ro 13:1-7).

Christ told Pilate that His Kingdom was not of this world and for this reason He went outside the camp to die in shame for the sins of those who will believe (Jo 18:36; He 13:12-14). Because of Christian involvement in using government to force moral compliance the saying has arisen of the many hypocrites in churches which is true! If we believe in the use of government force then we are truly saying that Christ has NO power! All who seek to live by rules only give the flesh more power to sin (Co 2:20-23). This was established by the Jerusalem Council that Christians should live by the indwelling Spirit, guided by proper hermeneutical interpretation of the Scriptures, and not by rules. The Jews with over 1400 years of failure proved that rules do not bring salvation (Ps 51:17; Ac 15:6-21). The church and family are to be our conclaves of biblical morality for the world to see and either be drawn to Christ’s salvation or repelled as it is foolishness to them (1Co 2:14). Doing anything else makes us the enemies of God who will not protect us from ignoring His word but discipline us as errant children (He 12:5-8).

Author: LeeS

Retired naval nurse, Dad, Husband, Christian who seeks to share the Bible with those who want more than the superficial milk given out in the majority of today's churches. God has taught me through hard experiences as well as through book learning (Master's of Ministry, Doctor of Ministry).