This month we're looking at The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley. I have to admit, this one excited me for the simple fact that it's clearly a science fiction book. I'm not sure why people classify it as "fantasy." I mean, you've got terraforming, genetic engineering, and faster-than-light travel. I saw nothing that could even remotely be construed as an elf or other fantasy-based races.But before we go into the stories themselves, we should talk about their foundation, part of which is post-millennialism. This is a form of eschatology that doesn't get talked about all that often.
For that very reason, I thought I'd do my civic duty by offering this, a millennial primer.For starters, we'd better define our terminology. The "millennium" is the technical term for what's referred to in Revelation 20:
"And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain. He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. He threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After that, he must be set free for a short time."I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:1-4, NIV)
I'm sure most of my readers are aware that there are about half a dozen different ways to interpret any passage out of Revelation, and that's certainly true of this passage as well. There are four basic "flavors" to millennialism, as illustrated by this chart:The first category is called post-tribulation premillennialism or is also known as "historic premillennialism." As you can see from the chart, those who hold this view believe that Christ's reign will be a literal thousand year reign that kicks off immediately after the tribulation.
The second category is, by far, the loudest. It's dispensational premillennialism. If you go to any Christian bookstore and grab a book on the end times, there's a very good chance that you'll have found a book written from this viewpoint. Truth be told, I've never seen a book that didn't hold this viewpoint in a Christian bookstore.
For that reason I won't go into too much detail here. Suffice it to say, dispensational premillennialists believe that before the tribulation, the Christian Church will be raptured into heaven. The tribulation will kick off, overtaking unbelievers, the Jewish people, and anyone who converts to Christianity afterwards (including the aforementioned Jews). After seven years, Jesus will return a second time (or would it be a third time?) to set up his literal millennial kingdom.
But then, if you've read Left Behind and the subsequent books, you're familiar with this already.
That brings us to postmillennialism. Unlike both strains of premillennialists, the postmillennialists believe that Christ's return will occur after the millennium. From what I understand, most postmillennialists believe that Christ's reign will be brought about by increasing Christian influence in society. Basically things will get better and better until humanity enters into a Christian utopia.
This is the eschatology that's at the foundation of The Lamb Among the Stars, of which The Shadow and Night is the first two books. In this case, Walley obviously doesn't see the millennium as a literal thousand year reign, seeing as the Assembly has lasted a dozen times longer than that.
And finally, there's amillennialism. I once saw an assertion by Tim LaHaye (obviously tripped up by the prefix a-) that amillennialists don't believe in a millennium at all. That's simply not true. Amillennialists do believe in the millennium. It's just that they believe that the millennium has already been ushered in at Christ's death and resurrection. The "thousand years" mentioned in Revelation 20 is taken to be symbolic, not literal.In the interest of fairness, I'll confess here and now that I'm an ardent (some might even say militant) amillennialist. I don't buy into either version of premillennialism and I think postmillenialism is too optimstic. But this isn't a critique of Walley using postmillennialism in his book.
Instead, I'm glad he did. Exploring a different theological viewpoint is always healthy. While I didn't agree with Walley on his eschatology, I certainly appreciated it and reading his stories helped me refine and hone my position a bit more.
So there you go. Millennialism. I don't know if anyone else will discuss that today. I won't bring it up tomorrow either. Well, probably not. Instead, I'll submit some reviews on the stories themselves. In the meantime, be sure to check out what other people are saying:
Carol Bruce Collett
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Heather R. Hunt
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika or Mir's Here