Recently I downloaded the podcasted lectures of Dr. M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. from Asbury Seminary. Or, at least, I got the first two to see if they were good. I was unfamiliar with Mulholland, and as lectures on Revelation go…..well, it’s easy to stumble on something you don’t want to listen to much. 🙂
I’m pleased to say (after only having listened to the first so far) “sweeeeet”. Seriously, his ability to communicate well combined with knowledge/understanding of the scriptures makes for a great listen. I was driving while listening, but took mental notes….so here’s a quick synopsis of lecture one:
Mulholland believes that readers of the book of Revelation (& eschatology in general) most often fall into one of 4 main categories. Obviously, some use more than one, and some are completely out of left field, but most fall somewhere in these broad categories:
1. Preterist – roughly, that the events described in Revelation were events that occurred in the ancient history of the church. We can interpret the symbolism (much like historians thousands of years from now will need to interpret “donkeys and elephants”), but as far as we take it, it will only offer a better understanding of what happened “back then”.
2. Historical – in short, that the book of Revelation is a timeline, in which most everything we read has already taken place (using much of the same symbolism from the Preterist camp). A historical approach generally finds us located today toward the end of the book of Revelation. They watch for “signs”, and “things that match up”, (i.e. the pope being the anti-christ during the protestant reformation), etc. It can be a helpful view, in that it keeps us “watchful” and “vigilant”, having followers like Martin Luther and even John Wesley. But the downside (i.e. its’ proponents claiming many different points where the world is coming to an end….and yet we’ve continued) is pretty obvious.
3. Futurist – seems very similar to Historical in some spots, but usually sees us located around the 3rd or 4th chapter of Revelation. The rest of the book “will happen” at some appointed time, and they watch for the signs, etc. Mulholland noted that most dispensationalists find themselves in this camp, which I think is still a large portion of the church. The benefits and shortfalls to a solely Futurist view are very similar to the Historical approach.
4. Idealist – Mulholland talked about how most “liberal” theologies today would probably lean with either this, or the Preterist view. That the book of Revelation is full of allegory and symbolism of what trials and forces the people of God will face in any and all generations. A sort of “cycle” in the forces of good and evil that has been going on, and will continue to happen until Christ returns. The positives of this view offer to make Revelation relevant again to ALL Christians, since whether on large OR small scale these are things we are being prepared for/warned about. The negatives include how detached this may make us from John’s original message, and something something something (the girls started to wake up here, so I got distracted).
Obviously, you have people in each of these camps who realize that ultimately it is a “Revelation of JESUS CHRIST”, and so Christ becomes the main focus. But his goal here seems to be to simply lay a foundation for four main camps of thought, not a precise index of all approaches. In closing, he talks about taking the strengths of each of these approaches, while avoiding their weaknesses. Again, a great lecturer, and I look forward to the rest of this series. They’re all available by going to iTunes store and searching for “Asbury, Mulholland”.