Recently, I reviewed Kevin O’Kane’s Instigators of the Apocalypse: How Those with False Interpretations of the Book of Revelation Influenced Wars and Revolutions in the History of Western Civilization (see here for my review). O’Kane sent me a thoughtful response to my review and has given me permission to publish it here. Here it is:
James, Thanks for taking the time to read my book and putting forth your review of it. Let me address a few of the concerns and criticisms you have in the review.
You wrote: “I do not think that premillennialism necessarily entails love for enemies, whereas postmillennialism and amillennialism have to entail hatred for enemies. My impression is that there is a desire for divine punishment in some of the works that O’Kane would identify as premillennial (i.e., the Book of Revelation), and there are beautiful things about love for enemies in works that, according to O’Kane, contain a problematic eschatology (i.e., Augustine).”
O’Kane: To some extent, you’re right about that. Lanctantius would be one of the primary examples of a premillennialist who put forth such a document in his On the Deaths of the Persecutors, although, as my book indicated, he also stands as one of the points in the transition from pre to post. But let’s face the facts, outside of Lanctantius who likely supported Constantine’s civil wars, you would be hard pressed to come up with any premills who engaged in or supported Christians engaging in atrocities or starting wars. It was the postmills who altered history in that way. And it is not that Augustine never professed love for enemies, it’s that he advocated the use of force in relation to this love in order to coerce them to change their position and thus save their souls from hell. It’s interesting that Augustine believed that the Donatists were going to hell just because they believed that lapsed Christians needed to be re-baptized.
James: “Futuristic premillennialism can influence people not to care about doing anything to address the problems of their world, since Jesus will come back and fix things anyway. Postmillennialism, on the other hand, can encourage a concern about social justice. . . . . O’Kane would have done well, however, to have included a larger discussion of this issue.”
O’Kane: Once again, you’re right about a larger discussion. I had thought about including a discussion of the place a Christian has in relation to politics and the state by incorporating a treatise and critique of Reinhold Niebuhr ‘s Christ and Culture. However, I felt the book was getting too long for the popular marketplace and perhaps it could be included in a possible second book. I had originally intended to include a number of other events in history, such as the Spanish Inquisition, which some historians trace back to Augustine’s theology, and the Great Schism in relation to the Hundred Years War and leading up to Joan of Arc. There is some evidence that Joan had in mind to lead a crusade to retake Jerusalem to establish the French king as the last world emperor after she finished with the English. But again, the book was getting too long. Concerning social justice: it should be noted that, since the 1980’s most evangelicals that have become involved with the religious right would probably classify themselves as futurist premills, having come in by way of the abortion issue under Ronald Reagan. I, myself, was a onetime follower of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s liberation theology as outlined in his Ethics, but I pulled back from that position as a result of realizing, upon further study, that Bonhoeffer’s theology was grounded more in the Enlightenment thinking than in apostolic, New Testament theology.
James: “O’Kane does not interact with Irenaeus’ statement that the Antichrist will come from the Israelite tribe of Dan, or Irenaeus’ apparent belief that the end times related somehow to his own historical context, in which the Roman empire was relevant (Against Heresies 5.25-26, 30).”
O’Kane: My desire to support Irenaeus was not as a result of believing that his writings were infallible or that he was correct in all things he believed. There are a number of issues that he writes on that he seems to be wrong about: the age of Jesus when he died, for example. But I was less concerned with discussing the Antichrist’s nationality than in discussing the beast’s theology, and in showing the thematic connections between the Revelation, The gospel of John, and 1 John. When you compare these writings with what Irenaeus said about them, as I outlined them in my book, it’s apparent that the church father was right-on. When you compare the passage concerning the tribe of Dan that is inferred to by Irenaeus and other church fathers to come to the conclusion that the Antichrist will be Israelite, its much more ambiguous, in my opinion. But perhaps you’re right, an endnote in discussion of this might have been in order, or perhaps a future blog post dealing with this issue or an inclusion in the future book. I feel the Roman Empire issue you bring up is a little bit of a red-herring. I don’t think Irenaeus believing the Roman Empire was the final empire Daniel talks about nullifies all of his eschatology any more than, if Hal Lindsey’s belief that a revived Roman Empire turns out to be false, then it nullifies everything he believes. John himself probably believed that the empire would give rise to the Antichrist, but as I indicated in my book, the environment that John wrote in is destined to re-emerge, not necessarily as a specific revived Roman Empire, but one that mimics certain aspects of it. As I wrote in chapter 21:
“In the midst of the visions on the island of Patmos, John witnessed the corrupt condition of human nature. The following of the Antichrist as described in the Revelation is something history has witnessed time and time again. From the faith that ancient Romans put in some of the emperors to the following of despots, such as Napoleon, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, or various last world emperors, mankind, whether religious or secular, has embraced the spirit of the Antichrist in believing that humanity can create its own utopia… These tyrants witness to the reality of the future Antichrist but never accomplish his role completely. Someday the Holy Spirit will remove his hand from holding back the full force of evil, and the Antichrist will come forward and fulfill the entire role of what the Revelation claims.”
James: “and asking if a prominent Catholic bishop’s acceptance of homosexuality is leading the Catholic church to a libertine attitude towards sexuality, like that of the Nicolaitans)”
O’Kane: Actually, I think you might have missed my point here. It’s not the mere existence of a bishop who accepts homosexuality that I wonder about, it’s the fact that he was promoted by Francis, something that I don’t believe ever would have take place under Benedict and John Paul II. As I indicated in my book, there are those who believe that the Pope will fundamentally change the church’s position on the nature of Christ and in its position on human sexuality. That cannot happen unless it occurs through a ecumenical council where it would have to be voted on by the majority. I don’t think it’s invalid to ask the question or whether this might be that beginning. Having said that, as I indicated in the book, Catholicism in its current state has nothing to do with the theology of the Antichrist, as Irenaeus and the NT outlined it, and I personally doubt that it ever will.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to read the book and write the review. By the way, I do have a blog which can be accessed at kevintimothyokane.com. I have mostly written on subjects of Islamic prophecy as they relate to my book.
Kevin Timothy O’Kane
UPDATE: James here again. I probably was not clear about my area of disagreement with O’Kane on the Catholic bishop who accepts homosexuality. My area of disagreement is that I do not think that acceptance of homosexuality necessarily entails a libertine view of sexuality, for gay couples can be monogamous and faithful to each other.