Stephen Nichols has always been a favorite orator of mine. In his podcast, he always finds a way to pack brilliant lessons from church history into five short minutes. I have also enjoyed his teaching through Ligonier ministries. This is, however, the first of his written work that I have had the pleasure of reading.
Nichols’ thesis is basic: it is becoming clear that the West is becoming more and more ‘post-Christian’ and for many Christians this means fear when it should mean confidence. He then identifies five areas in which we can place our confidence: God, Scripture, Christ, the Gospel, and the hope of the future.
While I give two thumbs up to the end-goal of this book , his writing is a bit choppy and sporadic which did not make for much of a pleasant read. It is also more of an entry level work, which I was not expecting. Nothing entirely profound was written that could not have been found elsewhere or said with shorter space. With that said, I would recommend this book to a new Christian – perhaps a middle or high school aged student – who is not entirely familiar with the Reformed faith and tradition. These could benefit greatly from Nichols’ short, sporadic, yet encouraging examples from Scripture and history.
If I am honest, one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book is because I am leaning towards an optimist view of history (aka postmillennialism). Being familiar with Nichols’ work in church history, I was interested in seeing how he interacted with the current state of the church and where we may be heading.
In many ways, he certainly comes across as optimistic with regards to where history is heading prior to the second advent. He provides numerous biblical and historical examples of times of suffering, when the people of God held fast to the promise of God of a hopeful future. At other times, however, he clearly focuses more so on the second advent specifically. I think this is a good balance – though I am not certain of Nichols’ understanding of eschatology.
This book has reminded me of the need for the Church to have confidence in God for the future – including history prior to and after the second advent. The way our context looks now has no bearing on whether or not God will keep his promises that he has laid out in Scripture. In my estimation, the downfall of postmillennialism is often a lack of longing for the second advent, whereas the downfall of amillennialism is often an apathy towards the here and now. Nichols’ seems to balance these well, all while not giving away his particular understanding of what will happen before Christ returns.
While not entirely profound, Nichols’ work is an encouraging word and would serve young Christians well.