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Most Christians have a limited view of what constitutes a biblical worldview. I suspect that many believe that the Christian’s earthly life is a holding pattern for heaven. Earth serves as a way station for true living after death. Is this why God created us? We’re born, we live out our lives the best we can, and then we prepare for heaven. In the interim, the Christian’s goal is to evangelize the lost for the world to come.

Some went further by joining isolated religious orders like a monastery or nunnery. One of the most spiritual things a person could do in the Roman Catholic Church was to become a priest or a nun, two religious orders that negated the creation command to be fruitful and multiply.

Protestantism has its own version of the cloistered life masquerading as the spiritual life. Preaching is limited to the personally spiritual. Jesus is transformative for the individual with some impact on the family and life at large but little that would envision something like the General Magic project. But beyond these limited areas of impact, modern-day Christian theology has little to say. Check out Christian publishing companies if you want to be depressed or content with the cloistered life.

John Nelson Darby, the founder of dispensational premillennialism and the pre-tribulational “rapture” of the church doctrine, the basis of The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) and the multivolume Left Behind prophecy series, taught that “the imminent return of Christ ‘totally forbids all working for earthly objects distant in time.’” (Francis William Newman, Phases of Faith; or, Passages From the History of My Creed (London: George Woodfall and Son, 1850), 35.) This would have included the study of mathematics, medicine, art, music, and the sciences unless there were “immediate spiritual results.” (Newman, Phases of Faith, 37.) Darby would have approved of the printing press because such a device could reproduce the Bible in record numbers and more cheaply. Also, Darby’s own works could be reproduced. But beyond these necessities, the created world and its potentialities were not considered ultimately spiritual.

I suspect that if the Scofield Reference Bible had been around in the seventeenth century, there never would have been a westward migration of Christians to build what has become known as “a city on a hill.” The 105 colonists and seamen carried the Geneva Bible with them. Before finding what would be their permanent settlement, Rev. Robert Hunt (1568–1608) offered the following prayer on April 29, 1607 at Cape Henry (now Virginia Beach, Virginia)
We do hereby dedicate this Land, and ourselves, to reach the People within these shores with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to raise up Godly generations after us, and with these generations take the Kingdom of God to all the earth. May this Covenant of Dedication remain to all generations, as long as this earth remains, and may this Land, along with England, be Evangelist to the World. May all who see this Cross, remember what we have done here, and may those who come here to inhabit join us in this Covenant and in this most noble work that the Holy Scriptures may be fulfilled.
Hunt was reminding his shipmates that the kingdom of God was their priority, and future generations were in view. “From these very shores,” Hunt reminded them, “the Gospel shall go forth not only to this New World but the entire world.” The following Bible passage was read at the conclusion of the prayer: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee. For the kingdom is the Lord’s and he ruleth among the nations” (Ps. 22:27–28). There was no talk about Satan ruling the world, a call to await a “rapture” of the church, a prophetic parenthesis, or talk about Armageddon. It was all about the advance of God’s kingdom. They believed in a covenantal approach to history whereby future generations would “take the Kingdom of God to all the earth” — this is the important part — “as long as this earth remains.” These concepts came directly from the notes of the Geneva Bible with its kingdom-advancing approach:
[The Geneva Bible] provided much of the genius and inspiration which carried those courageous and faithful souls through their trials, and provided the spiritual, intellectual and legal basis for establishment and flourishing of the colonies. Thus, it became the foundation for establishment of the American Nation.
Government meant more than politics: self-government under God first, then family, church, and civil governments. (Louis B. Wright, The Cultural Life of the American Colonies: 1607–1763 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1957) and Leland Ryken, Worldly Saints: The Puritans as They Really Were (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986).) Even after the 1607 settlement, the Geneva Bible was being used to encourage the colonists from afar in the preparation of later waves of English immigration for the same purposes:

Considerable literature was put out and numerous sermons were preached in London, in the interest of the colony in Virginia, and much of this, at least—practically all, in fact that we have been able to examine—was provided by men, who used the Geneva Bible, presumably Puritans. The Good Speed to Virginia, written by Robert Gray, in the interest of the enterprise, was published in London, in 1609, and he quotes from the Geneva Bible. Several sermons were preached before the Virginia Company in London, for which service they chose freely, if not uniformly, Puritans. Perhaps the first such sermon was delivered at White Chapel on April 25, 1609, by the Rev. William Symonds, the minister of Saint Saviours in Southwark. He used the Geneva Bible, as his Scripture quotations prove. (P. Marion Simms, The Bible in America: Versions that Have Played Their Part in the Making of the Republic (New York: Wilson-Erickson, 1936), 75–76.)

What was uniformly true in Virginia in 1607 was equally true of the Plymouth colony in 1620. Like the earlier Jamestown settlers, the Pilgrims who had first gone to the Netherlands for refuge, came to the new world with the Geneva Bible in hand.

The Mayflower Compact states that they undertook the voyage “for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith.” This included a cultural application of the Bible. They stated: “[We] Covenant and Combine ourselves together into a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.” They were not end-time system builders.

In his 1630 Model of Christian Charity, John Winthrop (1577/8–1649) offered the following exhortation to those aboard the Arabella as they were about to join the existing Massachusetts Bay Colony:

The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as His own people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our ways, so that we shall see much more of His wisdom, power, goodness and truth, than formerly we have been acquainted with. We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when He shall make us a praise and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “may the Lord make it like that of New England.” For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. (John Winthrop, “Model of Christian Charity” (1630): Read here.)

In his Of Plymouth Plantation, a first-hand account of the colony, Bradford recounts the tortuous history that brought them to this new world, “Satan hath raised, maintained and continued against the Saints, from time to time, in one sort or other. Sometimes by bloody death and cruel torments; other whiles imprisonments, banishments and other hard usages; as being loath his kingdom should go down, the truth prevail and the churches of God revert to their ancient purity and recover their primitive order, liberty and beauty.” (William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation: 1620–1647, ed. Samuel Eliot Morison with notes and introduction (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), 3.)

Bradford never considered that these external adversities were signs of an eschatological end or an indifference to the present world. They were challenges. While he never dismissed the historical realities that stared him in the face, he did believe that a faithful and active church, with God’s providential government, could beat them into retreat.

Author: Gary DeMar

Gary—who served as President of American Vision for thirty-five years—is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. Author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, he has been featured by nearly every major news media outlet. Gary also has hosted The Gary DeMar Show, History Unwrapped, and the Gary DeMar’s Vantage Point Webshow and is a regular contributor to AmericanVision.org. Gary has lived in the Atlanta area since 1979 with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and are enjoying being grandparents. Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).